American Philanthropy – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

American Philanthropy – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly is Jim Eskin’s take on the charitable sector’s current state of affairs. Here’s what Jim has to share:

A classic Clint Eastwood spaghetti western from 1967 had a memorable title and an iconic theme song: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The good, the bad and the ugly is unfortunately a pretty good description of life in America in 2022. All three components are percolating, dangerously so, and the overall results do not provide comfort.

I’m going to reverse the order and address them in the sequence of the ugly, the good, and the bad.

Unfortunately, we don’t have to spend much time to pinpoint the Ugly. Gun violence, mass shootings with military armaments, are becoming all too commonplace. Hooray for Washington for finally coming together to pass the first significant gun-control legislation in 30 years that is comprehensive in nature by also addressing mental health and related social issues.


My heart beats with pride to brag about the Good. American philanthropy has never looked better through the voluntary sharing of time, talent and treasure. Charitable giving reached a record high of $485 billion in 2021, according to Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. This overall total is extraordinary, kissing half $1 trillion or well over $1 billion a day. Another way to picture this amount: It’s 5,000 pallets, each stacked with $100 million in $100 bills.  It’s evident that American individuals, corporations and foundations consistently respond to urgent priorities of which there is no shortage. While the mega-gifts get all the attention, we shouldn’t overlook that the majority of American households — from all different socioeconomic backgrounds — donate to charity. The gift of time — perhaps even more precious than money because it can never be replaced — is equally impressive. It was last estimated that approximately 63 million Americans — 25% of the adult population — volunteer their time, energy and passion to making a difference in improving the lot of others.

The Bad is the most complex to delineate. We just don’t do a good enough job of getting along with each other. Worse yet, we are steadily separating into completely distinct ideological pods in which people who think differently live in different places, get their news and information from different sources, and refuse to listen to and understand those who disagree with them.

Americans have long participated in heated debates over political, ideological and philosophical differences.


But those emotions have never been so divisive, at least not since the Civil War. It’s not a big stretch to say we are headed towards an uncivil war. People who think differently see others as the enemy.

This runs against every fiber of the American tradition of coming together during times of enormous challenge. It’s scary to say this, but you have to wonder if the nation could pull together if we were attacked by a foreign power. This is not the America of our parents and grandparents.

We have developed and administered Covid vaccines with the commitment, dedication and energy worthy of a moonshot. Now, teaching the necessity of civility needs to receive top priority attention at every level of our educational infrastructure and be reinforced by our religious and social organizations.

Restoring civility and respect for those who think differently is the only way we can make today’s hybrid of the good, the bad and the ugly workable in the spirit of our nation’s motto — E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one!

American Philanthropy – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly was first posted at NANOE News

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