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History of Giving

Americans have always participated in giving back.

Giving back is an important part of American culture. The following is a selection of Americans giving back through history from the Smithsonian’s article on Giving in America.

Benjamin Franklin

[1830s] Benjamin Franklin came to believe that society’s needs could be addressed through the mutual action and generosity of like-minded individuals. He pioneered models of community fundraising and public-private partnerships in Philadelphia, leading to the establishment of libraries, hospitals, and fire companies.

Andrew Carnegie

In the late 1800s philanthropy became increasingly associated with the very wealthy, as a generation of new millionaires founded public institutions. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie influenced the future of philanthropy by giving away most of his wealth and arguing that the rich were the best judges of how their money could benefit the common good.

March of Dimes

In the early 1900s, nationwide charitable organizations expanded their influence and increasingly relied on support from everyday donors and volunteers. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, renamed the March of Dimes, was founded in 1938 to combat polio and later shifted its mission to preventing birth defects.

Fill the Boot Fundraising Drive
Throughout the 1900s, national fundraising efforts became annual traditions in communities throughout the United States. At street corners across the nation, the International Association of Fire Fighters’ Fill the Boot campaign has raised funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association since 1954.

“Text to Haiti” campaign
2010 Television, mobile phones, and the Internet are just a few of the technologies that have fostered creative ideas for raising funds and simplified giving. It is now easier than ever to give to a cause, and the increased use and impact of technology presents Americans with more causes from which to choose.

Ice Bucket Challenge

Charitable giving went viral in the summer of 2014 with the Ice Bucket Challenge, a social media effort to promote ALS awareness. More than 17 million videos of participants dumping ice-cold water on their heads have been uploaded to social media websites. Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has the degenerative nerve disease, used this bucket in launching the challenge.

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