Published On: December 01, 2017

How do people in different countries give? And what can we learn?

All lands have their own culture. Though giving is adored and embraced by all societies equally, the way of giving differs drastically from one culture to another. Every nation has its own set of values, some universal, and others confined within regional ethos. 

However, there are differences in the patterns of giving. Favoured causes and concerns change according to severity of the cause and need of the hour. The mode of giving changes with form of giving and status of technology. Sometimes, there are situational crisis that the country is dealing like a natural disaster like earthquake, floods or persistent war like in middle east, keep the citizens occupied. Charity within the nation naturally takes the backseat. In fact these nations then become subject of charity.

These situations, patterns make each country an interesting case of study for charity and donations behaviour. Here are some interesting notes on charity from various countries:


It is surprising to know that this small east Asian country has topped the World Giving Index prepared by CAF for four years consecutively. This is likely due to the prevalence of small, frequent acts of giving in support of those living a monastic lifestyle. As a country classified by the World Bank as Lower Middle Income, it disrupts the traditional assumptions about the association between wealth and generosity. 

The proportion of people in Myanmar who donated money is as high as  91% of the entire population. Most of Myanmar’s giving is to religious causes and institutions. 

90% of Myanmar’s population is Buddhist with as many as 99% of those following the Theravada branch of the religion. In Theravada Buddhism, followers donate to support those living a monastic lifestyle – a practice known as Sangha Dana. Offering food or requisites is one of the ways to practise dana and support the sangha. Another is to donate any amount or cash-in-kind. The aim of sangha dana is to initiate the contact between a households and sangha (group of monks). 

United States of America: 

In the U.S.A. more than 65% population regularly donates to charity. Apart from this, it also has strong volunteering culture, as per, the annual report on philanthropy by Giving USA. More than 64% of the entire population volunteers for causes. Amidst press stories about charity projects by large foundations like Gates, Ford from US, the fact that the vast bulk of American philanthropy is carried out by individuals is ignored. 

Most of these individuals like to give either in kind or money (most donations happen online). In fact, as per Giving USA, 2017 report, 48% of American adults like to make donations through a mobile app.

Favourite causes are religion, education, human services. However, donations for causes like art and culture and environment protection are steadily increasing each year. 


A strong majority of Canadians say they have made some donation to a cause or charity in the past year. The percentage generally rises with age. Middle age population contributes to big chunk of charity in Canada. Young people (Generations Y and X ) are far more likely to give online. As per the report The Next Generation of Canadian Giving, published by Blackbaud fundraising software company, nearly 60 percent of Generation Y and 58 percent of Generation X donate through workplace giving programs. 

United Kingdom:

Even with a surge in gving on the internet, UK still prefers to stick to traditional methods. Cash continues to be the most common method of giving, with over half of donors (55%) making cash donations, states the CAF UK Giving Report. Online giving has been used by just 15 per cent of donors. Despite an apparent online and social media focus, young donors are actually much more likely than average to give cash (66% compared to 55% overall). However, traditionality does not obstruct the gender parity in charity as in UK those most likely to give are female. 

Another interesting thing to note about UK is that Payroll giving plays a major role in charitable giving. Payroll Giving, also known as Give As You Earn or workplace giving, is a flexible scheme which allows anyone who pays UK income tax to give regularly and on a tax free basis to the charities and good causes of their choice.

It is valuable, long term source of revenue, providing regular income to help charities budget and plan ahead more effectively. More than one million people give directly to charity through their company’s payroll giving program.  


China has one of the lowest participation rates in donations in the world at just 8%. As per Forbes magazine, total charitable donations in China were $13.2 billion in 2013, or 4 percent of all U.S. donations. 

This does not necessarily mean that the Chinese lack generosity. In response to the devastating Sichuan earthquake in 2008, the total charitable donations reached over 100 billion RMB. A major natural disaster could trigger a groundswell of support from tens of millions of Chinese people from all walks of life. 

The government policy on registration and taxation has seriously restrained the growth of China’s philanthropic sector. In order to register as NPO or NGO it has to be affiliated with a professional agency (basically a government department having jurisdiction over the subject NGO is working for). This is by no means easy. Tax exemption for donations are confusing and are often decided arbitrarily by civil authorities on ad hoc basis. This dampens the growth of giving in China. 

South-east Asian Countries:

The report prepared by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) named, The Law Affecting Civil Society in Asia: Developments and Challenges for Nonprofit and Civil Society Organizations states that in many countries of Southeast Asia, government regulatory controls on civil society are highly restrictive. 

For example, in Malaysia, the failure to comply with the Societies Act of 1966, will subject registered societies to various penalties, including fines of up to RM 15,000 and terms of imprisonment of up to five years. Vietnam bar a wide range of purposes, including opposing the ruling Communist Party or engaging in divisive or splittist activity. Cambodia’s newly enacted Law on Associations and NGOs, in Article 24, mandates both foreign and domestic organizations to “maintain their neutrality towards political parties in the Kingdom of Cambodia.” 

In such a restrictive environment, there is little or no motive for citizens to donate to NGOs or for various social causes. This is reflected in World Giving Index, as many southeast asian countries except Indonesia, which surprisingly ranks 2nd, winds up getting lower ranks.  

Australia and New Zealand:

Two major nations in Oceania make it to top 5 donor countries as per World Giving Index making oceania the most giving continent. However, the percentage of giving is decreasing for both the countries for last 2 years. The good news is that though percentage of monetary donations decrease, volunteering hours offered by Australians have been increased. It is also important to note that Australian women give significantly more than men. 

Australia offers pre-tax donations via employer as a part of workplace giving program. It is a ‘set and forget’ option. One can request an employer to directly withdraw certain amount of money from your salary every pay day. An employee is not taxed upfront when giving to registered charities. Plus it’s immensely valuable to the organisation as regular income smooths out their otherwise fluctuating fundraising incomes. 

African nations:

Countries in Africa are often depicted as perpetual importers of charity. What gets little or no attention is how Africans give. But World Giving Index tells us an almost unbelievable story. The countries in Africa have citizens that are among the most generous in the world. More than ten African countries like, Kenya (Rank 3), Sierra leone (12), Liberia (14), Zambia (18), Uganda (22), Ghana (23) , South Africa (24), Mauritius (27), Nigeria (27) and Malawi (36), Somalia (47) made it into the top 50 list. This list is proof that people in need can recognize when somebody is worse off than they are, and lend a hand. 


Giving in India has its roots in religion. Apart from religious giving, the legal requirement to disburse CSR funds, promotes the culture of corporate giving in the country. The CAF World Giving Index shows that there has been a global decrease in giving in 2017, while India’s rank have improved from 91 to 81. 

The India Giving Report by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) found that philanthropy in India has the potential to soar in the next decade, with more than half a billion people giving for charity. 
The study, based on interviews with nearly 9,000 people from across the country, found India has the potential to become a global philanthropic powerhouse. Overall the report found that most people in India, 84% of the 836 million adults give at least once a year.

What we need is to promote this ingrained culture of giving in India. To widen the community of givers we need to create a sustainable giving culture. We need to ensure that the donations are channeled efficiently to the most affected individuals or registered organisations, to create a maximum impact. 

One of the fundamental challenges is to create an environment in which donors are able to give through formal organisations and feel comfortable about it. The digital revolution in India that led to the creation of online giving have a major role to play in creating transparency around philanthropic giving in India. 

Generosity has little to do with wealth

The bottom line is, people all over the world, like to give. Interestingly it has nothing to do with wealth. Poor nations of Africa and East Asia are proving it time and again that when there’s a will, there’s a way. Acclaimed writer Khalil Gibran correctly reminds us, that ‘generosity is giving more than you can…” 

India has a long way to go when it comes to  philanthropic giving. We can learn a lot from all these countries which scored really well in World Giving Index. 

African countries are living example that no one has ever become poor by giving! A little something from everyone can make a huge difference. Countries like UK and Canada can guide us towards gender parity in charity. However, we have to consider that social and economical empowerment is necessary for that to happen. Implementation of the right to inherit property, parity wages, ensuring greater labour force participation of women, abolition of glass ceiling will be the right step towards achieving this goal. 

One more area where India can improve is workplace giving programs. Although Indian tax regime do give certain income tax benefits, direct disbursal from salary is not a popular concept in India. India has a huge scope to improve on this front. 

Giving is not just an act but therapy for your soul. It makes you understand what’s real happiness is about. Generosity is what keep things we own, from owning us. Give, and you shall receive, what money can’t buy!