To mark the launch of the Kent Philanthropy Centre blog, the White House has revealed details of Barack Obama’s charitable giving http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/04/15/Release-of-the-President-and-Vice-Presidents-Tax-Returns/
In the last tax year, when the Obamas’ joint income was $2.7m, the president gave away $172,050. At 6.5% of his income, that’s far higher than the average American donor, who gives about 2% of their income, and nearly ten times as high as the average UK donor, who gives nearer 0.7% of their income.
But philanthropy is not just a numbers game. The spotlight on presidential giving may explain the higher amounts involved, but just like Joe & Josie Donor, Barack Obama has to pick which causes to support out of the more than a million charitable organisations in the US that would love to receive his endorsement. It turns out that 37 lucky charities won the president’s greenbacks as well as his backing. His two biggest gifts, of $25,000 each, went to global humanitarian agency CARE and to the United College Negro Fund. Interesting to see that this prominent US donor fits the pattern we identified in our ‘Million Pound Donors Report’, available at http://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/cphsj/research/couttsmilliondonor.html where we found that the richest givers and major donors prefer giving to higher education and international development, as well as to health causes and their own foundations. Obama’s choice of causes that bear upon his own life experience is also typical, as philanthropy research shows that (contrary to popular assumption) giving is led more by donor interests than by beneficiary needs.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know if our own political leaders fit the profile of major givers? Any chance that No.10 will tell us how much Gordon Brown gives and to which causes? I’m sure 166,000 UK charities would like to know if they receive his personal backing, as well as his regular warm words of support.