“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” – Anne Frank
Think philanthropy is a recent phenomenon? Think again!
Philanthropy actually emerged in America with the landing of the Pilgrims, who gathered themselves together into “voluntary associations” to care for one another in times of need. And later, the term Commonwealth (as in Commonwealth of Virginia) was employed to mean “a society in which all members contributed to the “common wealth,” or the public good.
Ben Franklin was one of the first - if not the first – American to recruit volunteers to fundraise. The volunteer Continental Army was financed by private donations, and it is even said that George Washington often ended his letters, “Philanthropically yours.”
Historically, philanthropy wasn't always employed for the right reasons: For example, after the Civil War, scientific philanthropists practiced Social Darwinism and believed social problems existed because the poor were less fit for success than the wealthy.
Wars were often the impetus for the creation of organizations (such as aid societies) that, in 1894, were given tax-exempt status as nonprofits, when Congress passed the first of several legislations that would define tax-exempt organizations and private foundations.
And boy, did we Americans run with that idea.
What a rich history we have as a country in caring for those in need and each other. So rich, in fact, that between 70 and 90 percent of all U.S. households donate to charity in a given year, and the typical household’s annual gifts add up to between two and three thousand dollars. The message is clear: Philanthropy is not just for the wealthy.
So, good job, America! Keep giving some of those billions back! Our country is a better place thanks to you. We have the history to prove it.
 Source: Philanthropy Roundtable