The article suggests "it takes a village" does not equate to "let the village elders supervise the giving."
Giving historically tracks the health of the overall economy, with the rise amounting to about one-third the rise in the stock market, according to Giving USA. Last year was right on target, with a 3.2 percent rise as stocks rose more than 10 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis.
"What people find especially interesting about this, and it's true year after year, that such a high percentage comes from individual donors," Giving USA Chairman Richard Jolly said.
Individuals gave a combined 75.6 percent of the total. With bequests, that rises to 83.4 percent.
The biggest chunk of the donations, $96.82 billion or 32.8 percent, went to religious organizations. The second largest slice, $40.98 billion or 13.9 percent, went to education, including gifts to colleges, universities and libraries.
About 65 percent of households with incomes less than $100,000 give to charity, the report showed.
How much church tax or university tax do the French pay?
"It tells you something about American culture that is unlike any other country," said Claire Gaudiani, a professor at NYU's Heyman Center for Philanthropy and author of "The Greater Good: How Philanthropy Drives the American Economy and Can Save Capitalism." Gaudiani said the willingness of Americans to give cuts across income levels, and their investments go to developing ideas, inventions and people to the benefit of the overall economy.
Gaudiani said Americans give twice as much as the next most charitable country, according to a November 2006 comparison done by the Charities Aid Foundation. In philanthropic giving as a percentage of gross domestic product, the U.S. ranked first at 1.7 percent. No. 2 Britain gave 0.73 percent, while France, with a 0.14 percent rate, trailed such countries as South Africa, Singapore, Turkey and Germany.