By Marsha Bailey, WEV Founder & CEO
Contrary to some popular opinion, the United States is not a nation of takers, it is a nation of givers. According to Giving USA, Americans donated over $335 Billion to charity in 2013 – over 72% from individuals. A 2006 Philanthropy Panel Study indicated that 67% of all American households made charitable contributions averaging $1,872 in a one-year period. Americans give more than citizens of any other country and they volunteer more as well. Why is that?
Europeans tend to have higher expectations that Government will provide for the needs of its citizens. In the U.S., philanthropy plays an important role, along with government, in addressing social problems. In fact,private sector giving often is on the cutting edge of identifying and supporting emerging issues.
That was certainly the case for WEV. In the late 80s, when we first started designing our programs and trying to raise money, less than 5% of foundation gifts went to non-traditional women’s organizations. I remember asking someone in the foundation community how they defined a “non-traditional women’s organization” and she said, “Basically, anyone other than the Girl Scouts.”
Were it not for the early support of local individuals and foundations, WEV would never have survived. For our first three years, we didn’t receive a penny of public money. Even today, government grants represent only 35% of our total budget. The rest comes from foundations, corporations, program fees and individuals.
I personally believe that Americans give because, no matter how dire things may seem, we are a nation of optimists. A nation of individuals who believe that one person can make a difference in the world. On the fourth Thursday of November, the fortunate among us will take a day to gather our loved ones around us and give thanks. That, too, is unique to the United States.
At WEV, we are thankful every single day for the generosity of our donors – those individuals, corporations, foundations and government agencies that make it possible – through your gifts of time, talent and treasure – for us to create a more equitable and just society through the economic empowerment of women.
Thank you for all you do to make our community a special place.