Americans are without a doubt the most generous people in the world. We give more of our time and money to others than any other nation. I’ll have some specific stats to share with you in a moment, which should make you feel very good this Christmas Day.
But there are also a bunch of folks who give charity a bad name. One of them is Lady Gaga, who has a charity called Born This Way Foundation. Its website says the foundation “is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world.”
In 2012, the foundation raised $2.6 million from Lady Gaga’s fans. And how much of that money was given away to help young people build a “kinder, braver world,” do you think? If you guessed a couple of million dollars, you’re off by 97.5 percent. Lady Gaga’s foundation gave away only a paltry $5,000 of the money it raised.
Yes, you read that right: five thousand bucks out of $2.6 million. Heck, her costumes for one show probably cost more than that. C’mon, Lady, reach a little deeper, would you? Heck, reach a lot deeper.
Another celebrity who has some ‘splaining to do is Kim Kardashian. Like many other celebrities, Kardashian has closets full of clothes she’ll never wear again. So she auctions off many pieces for charity.
Before one of the auctions, Kardashian explained: “My dad passed away from cancer, so the funds go towards granting wishes for terminally ill adults.” Almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?
Whenever one of her items appears, it’s accompanied by the tagline, “Charity Auction Supporting the Dream Foundation.” And it does … sort of. Turns out that Kardashian gives just 10 percent of the proceeds to charity. That just happens to be the absolute minimum percent eBay will permit, so the sale can be called a “charity auction.”
But it means that 90 percent of the proceeds go to Kardashian. In other words, she keeps nine times more money than is given to the Dream Foundation. Not exactly an example of giving until it hurts, is it?
By the way, Kardashian’s husband seems to have the same, shall we say flexible, standards when it comes to what constitutes a charity. In 2009, the Kanye West Foundation, which said it was founded to help teen dropouts, spent $553,826 on salaries, travel and other administrative expenses. In the same year, it only gave away $573 to charity. Happily, this one was closed three years ago.
The same Fox News website that contained the details of the Kardashian deceit shared several stories of celebrities who give 100 percent of their auction proceeds to charity. Among the names in this very generous category are Miley Cyrus, Sienna Miller, Barbra Streisand, Steven Tyler and even notorious bad boy Charlie Sheen.
Of course, there are plenty of other scams in the charity field. One of the biggest is paying out most of the money that’s donated to the people who raise it. One of the worst in this regard is something called the Kids Wish Network. Sounds a lot like the very respectable Make-A-Wish Foundation, doesn’t it?
In 2012 the Kids Wish Network raised $127.8 million from very generous donors. Of that amount, though, the vast majority — some $109.8 million — was paid to the people who raised the funds! Only 2.5 percent of the money was actually spent granting kids’ wishes.
But enough of the horror stories. Let me end this Christmas Day article with some information about how incredibly generous we Americans are. According to the Giving USA Foundation, in 2013 we gave a total of $335 billion to charitable causes. Of this amount, the vast majority, 72 percent, came from private individuals. Foundations gave 15 percent, bequests gave 8 percent and corporations gave 5 percent.
In addition, volunteers to various charitable endeavors donated time that, if the charities had to hire them, would have cost $163 billion. Taken together, that’s within a whisker’s worth of half-a-trillion dollars in charitable giving.
So yes, the spirit of giving is alive and well in the United States. That should make you both proud and glad this Christmas Day 2014. Congratulations to all of us.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.