December 20, 2011; Source: National Public Radio | Based on 150,000 interviews conducted in 153 countries, the world has become a more charitable place over the last twelve months. This is according to the second annual World Giving Index, compiled by Britain’s Charitable Aid Foundation (CAF) from Gallup Worldview World Poll data. And despite the persistent recession, the United States tops all countries, based on the percentage of survey respondents who indicated that they had engaged in any of three “giving behaviors” in the prior month:

  • Donating money to a charity;
  • Volunteering time to an organization; and/or
  • Helping a stranger who needed help

Globally, the average percentage of people engaging in any of the above giving behaviors rose from 31.6 percent to 32.4 percent, although “giving money” dropped by nearly a percentage point in the past year.

The United States rose from its fifth place ranking in the 2010 index, which might give NPQ’s U.S.-based readers an urge to gloat, and its non-U.S.-based readers an urge to yawn at the obvious correlation between rankings and wealth. Neither urge would be justified.

No gloating, because differences between closely ranked nations may not be statistically significant. No yawning, either: you might expect Ireland (#2), Australia (#3), and New Zealand (#4) to be on a list of the top twenty most giving nations, but what about the presence of Thailand (#9), Morocco (#12), and Turkmenistan (#16)? According to CAF, there is little correlation between a country’s wealth (as indicated by gross domestic product) and its charitable ranking. Only five of the world’s twenty most wealthy countries are represented in the top twenty giving nations.

“Helping strangers” was by far the most popular action globally, with an average participation rate of 47 percent. Liberia led the world in this category, with a 76 percent positive response rate. “Giving money” was the second most popular action, with a 29 percent global participation rate. Thailand (85 percent) led this category. “Volunteering” was the least popular action, with a 21 percent global participation rate. Turkmenistan (61 percent) led this category.

The World Giving Index report includes recommendations for public policy, businesses, charities, and individuals. CAF is now seeking feedback on Twitter (hashtag #worldgivingindex) about the data and reasons for variation in country scores. Based on this crowdsourced analysis, CAP will release a follow-up report in early 2012.—Kathi Jaworski