Organizations That Exist To Do Good

29 Aug

A truly unique characteristic of the American economy is the size, number and influence of not-for-profit organizations.

At a lunch before he departed the country, an Irish ex-patriot manager shared his impressions of the United States after a five-year stay in the Midwest. His perception of America had changed 180 degrees from cynicism and dislike to “I’m going to immigrate when I retire.” When asked why, he cited two major structural reasons. The first was the opportunity our economy offers people to be upwardly mobile. America is a meritocracy. Each of us knows a story of someone, often an immigrant, who has bootstrapped themselves to a better life through hard work, skill, knowledge, courage, and honesty. Such Horatio Alger stories are part of the American experience. In the United States, an aphorism about small companies is “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.”

The second was the generosity of Americans. “As soon as Americans develop some personal wealth, they begin to give it away.” He noted that Europeans try to keep wealth in the family across generations.

This generosity is a remarkable phenomenon. Last year, Americans gave away about $300 billion, two thirds of that from individuals and families. Americans routinely make charitable contributions that exceed the combined gifts of the rest of the world.

For a more in-depth discussion of not-for-profit organizations go to:


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