Philanthropy: an American Tradition

Suzanne Bissell, a Washington DC based philanthropy consultant who specializes in non-profit management and fundraising was in London recently to address donors and beneficiaries of the Anglo-American Charity Limited.

The Charity and its US parent, the Anglo-American Charitable Foundation, were established in 2003 as dual qualified US-UK donor advised funds to facilitate trans-Atlantic gifting.

In this edition of Tanager Talks, Suzanne provides context for the US tradition of giving pointing out that it was George Washington who in 1796 donated the equivalent of $20,000 to fund scholarships at Augusta Academy which later became Washing and Lee University. Washington’s gift, estimated to be worth $20 million dollars today, is still helping students.

Suzanne also cites a surprising example of 18th century trans-Atlantic giving when James Smithson, an English scientist and philanthropist provided a bequest that established the Smithsonian Institution in the US, a country he never visited. Today, the Smithsonian continues to have one of the largest impacts on the arts, humanities and sciences in the country.

Suzanne also points to unsung heroes of philanthropy such Aseloa McCarty, a woman in Mississippi who took in washing and who donated her life savings to the University of Southern Mississippi for needy students to give them the education she never had. The community was so inspired they tripled her endowment to $450,000. Students still receive tuition free scholarships every year thanks to her gift.

Suzanne concluded her Tanager Talk with a few statistics from a report on Giving in 2012 from the University of Indiana. Highlights include:

  • In 2012, Americans gave $316 billion to charitable causes
  • 65% of US households make contributions every year representing an average of $2,000 for every household
  • 50% of Americans donate their time to charity

You can find out more about Suzanne Bissell Philanthropy Services by contacting suzannehbissell@gmail.com.

You can find out more about trans-Atlantic giving and the Anglo-American Charity at www.anglo-americancharity.org.

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