Clinton spotlights record increase in charitable giving
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the start of the traditional holiday shopping season under way, President Clinton on Saturday released a report showing that Americans contributed more to charities last year than ever before. Clinton also announced a new, privately funded, $2 million initiative to encourage even more Americans to give.
The report, by the president's Council of Economic Advisers, found that charitable giving reached a record high of $190 billion in 1999 -- an increase of 43 percent since 1993.
"Charitable gifts now exceed 2 percent of our gross domestic product, the highest level of giving in nearly three decades," the president said in his weekly radio address, noting that 70 percent of American households made charitable contributions last year.
Clinton touted the strong economy and rising incomes as factors that encouraged more Americans to give to charitable causes like feeding the hungry, immunizing children and providing disaster relief to people around the world.
"Working with America's extensive network of nonprofit and faith-based organizations, we're making a difference, but we still have more to do," he said.
One area in which to improve, the president said, is encouraging more young people to give, since the report found that people over age 65 are much more likely than younger people to contribute to charities. Also, a new survey says, a majority of parents say they do not expose their children to philanthropy.
The president announced a spring 2001 launch in four U.S. regions of "The Youth Giving Project," a privately funded program developed in conjunction with the federal government.
The grass-roots initiative aims to teach young people to identify charitable needs in their own communities and help them raise money to address those needs.
"This is just a small investment with a potentially [large] dividend," said the president. "The baby-boom generation stands poised to inherit $12 trillion from the World War II generation. And it's likely their children will inherit even more. With that in mind, we need to help younger people recognize their own capacity to do good and help them discover the rewards of generosity."
Clinton also said the "well-to-do" could contribute more. While the Council of Economic Advisers report found that the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans were responsible for two-thirds of charitable giving last year, the president said, the wealthiest gave a much smaller percentage of their income than those in lower income brackets.
"In fact, half of all Americans with less than $10,000 made a charitable contribution," said the president. "And as a percentage of their net wealth, families with the lowest income gave much more than the wealthiest. That's both humbling and inspiring, and suggests a tremendous potential for growth in charitable giving by well-to-do Americans."
Last year, the president and the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, hosted a White House conference on philanthropy and formed a task force made up of nonprofits and government. The White House says the task force will release its final report later this week, and the president said it is expected to detail a "road map between nonprofit organizations and federal agencies."
"We're tackling America's toughest challenges together and making the most of the American people's enduring spirit of generosity," he said.