Wise Giving Wednesday: Donating More Than the Cost of a Moon Landing

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calendar icon Jul 28, 2021

On July 20, 1969, 52 years ago, with the help of Apollo 11 and the Eagle Lunar Module, Neil Armstrong placed a footprint on the surface of the moon. This technological achievement impresses even a half-century later and has become a historical touchstone by which so many other goals are measured. How many times have we heard this sentence: “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t we (fill in the blank)?” Of course, the cumulative cost of the Apollo effort (from 1960-1973) was huge: $25 billion. And according to a 2019 Space Review article, after adjusting for inflation, that total works out to $288 billion.

This total expense figure also helps put an interesting perspective on philanthropy. As noted in our previous blog, the latest Giving USA Report estimates that Americans donated a record total of $471.4 billion to charities in 2020. In other words, we are now contributing more than the cumulative cost of the Apollo mission, not just once, but on an annual basis. That level of investment in the charitable sector is an astounding achievement and shows that the people in the United States are some of the most generous in the world.  

As impressive as this total giving figure is, other recently released statistics are showing some cracks in American generosity. As reported in a June 27, 2021 article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a study just released by the Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, shows that less than half of U.S. households (49.6 percent) donated to charity in 2018. That’s a significant drop from the 68% of households that donated back in 2002. Although that statistic has been declining gradually over that twenty year period, it is a disappointing trend. Despite these limitations, the glass may still be seen as half full since the Indiana report also explains “Among households who donated to charity… the average giving amounts have remained relatively steady between 2000 ($2,703) and 2018 ($2,581)….”

It would be wonderful if the number of U.S. households that donated began to increase instead of drop. There certainly is much incentive given all the challenges faced by society today. Of course, we hope that a larger portion of these giving decisions will be made after having checked out the charity to verify if the subject organization meets the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video series, BBB Wise Giving Alliance provides a video interview with Andrew Rosen, Executive Director of National Ataxia Foundation (a BBB Accredited Charity), which works to find the cause and cure for all types of Ataxia. The organization supports research and provides programs and services to those affected by both dominantly and recessively inherited Ataxia as well as Sporadic Ataxia and other closely related conditions.

Heart of Giving Podcast 

This week’s Heart of Giving Podcast features interviews with Kari Luther Rosbeck, President and CEO, TSC Alliance and Susan E. Sherman, MHA Executive Director & CEO, The LAM Foundation. They talk about rare diseases, what motivates leaders to work in this field, and "The Power of Collaboration". 

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance 


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