Charity is the "art of feeling of affection or benevolence ... good will to the poor and suffering" according to Merriam-Webster. Does the root of benevolence begin when a child is taught to share a toy with a friend or sibling? Or, is there a natural instinct to share with others?
In the United States giving is a $350 billion industry. The single most important challenge for a charity is to encourage people to give their time and money. It is well-documented that there is a beneficial effect on people's lives who give to benefit others. Hand-in-hand is the fact that those who have a greater sense of well-being invest more hours volunteering and donate more money. Is this a religion-driven phenomenon? Is the ratio of giving to others the same among Christians, Atheists, and Muslims?
Charity is identity-based. "I give to others because it makes me feel good." There has been a pronounced increase in charity since WWII. Did the global consciousness of the suffering of others change after witnessing the devastation of the global war? Did a new social identity develop enjoining others to repair the damage? The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake killed approximately 270,000 people. 10 million were displaced from their homes. In the US the citizens donated almost an equal amount of money to what the US government contributed to the cause. Whereas countries like Germany contribute as a country with less involvement by individual citizens. Are Americans more generous than the citizens of other countries? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanitarian_response_to_the_2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake#Contributing_countries_and_supra-national_organizations
How much charity money bypasses the US tax system? How much money goes outside of the US to benefit other countries? Is the charity industry a shell game? The Bill Clinton Foundation gives to the Oprah Winfrey Foundation who passes it on to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - all the while bypassing paying taxes on the money. On the other hand, one dollar invested in the United States will accomplish little. Whereas one dollar in a country like Haiti will go a long way to help the people. Does charity begin at home?
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