Oftentimes when natural disasters hit the United States or elsewhere in the world, government officials are slow to respond. But Americans always step up. In the past few years, we've seen this generosity time and again in response to disasters in New Jersey, New Orleans, Florida and around the world (most recently in the Philippines). Within days, millions of dollars and donated goods (water, food, clothing, etc.) pour into charities with dedicated resources to help the victims of a devastating storm or earthquake. Hurricane Sandy alone drew about $325 million in cash donations in just a few months. Tragedy sometimes brings out the worst in government responsiveness, but it often brings out the best in Americans. The United States has a rich tradition of philanthropy, dating back to our founding fathers (and mothers) that continues to flourish today. According to the 2012 Giving USA report, charitable giving rose 3.5% in 2012 to $316.23 billion. "About 70% to 80% of Americans contribute annually to at least one charity," says C. Ray Clements, the former chair of the American Association of Fund Raising Council. "Being a 'philanthropist' does not merely mean making huge gifts; it means giving to any cause you value."
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