Part I details the forces behind philanthropy in the United States.

Part II will illustrate the historical context of philanthropic initiatives in the United States.


1835   Alexis de Tocqueville highlights philanthropy in his book Democracy in America

 1889   In The Gospel of Wealth, Andrew Carnegie argues that the rich have an obligation to distribute their wealth

1907   The Russell Sage Foundation becomes the first private family foundation

1913   Congress passes the Revenue Act of 1913, exempting charities from paying federal income tax

1914   The Cleveland Foundation becomes the world’s first community foundation

1917   The Revenue Act of 1917 establishes taxpayers’ deduction of charitable contributions on federal income taxes

1921   Congress enacts the Revenue Act of 1921 expanding the definition of tax exempt charitable organizations and permitting estate tax deduction for charitable contributions:

1935   Corporations can now deduct charitable contributions

1941   IRS Form 990 filed for the first time

1953   Approximately 50,000 charities obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS

1954   General Electric offers its employees a matching gift program

1962   Individual giving reaches $9.89 billion

1964   President John F. Kennedy creates the Combined Federal Campaign, the formal fundraising program for the Federal workplace

1969   The Tax Reform Act of 1969 vastly reshapes tax-exempt law. The Act increases the deduction limit on contributions to 50% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income and detailed limits on noncash gifts

1980   The Supreme Court rules that charities are not mandated to spend a stipulated percentage of contributions on programs

1987   Tax payers who do not itemize can no longer claim charitable donations

1990   Approximately 40,000 organizations apply for tax-exempt status.  Charitable organizations now amount to almost 500,000

1991   Fidelity Investment’s Charitable Gift Fund is created enabling its customers to take advantage of the benefits of donor-advised funds

1999   Legislation requires charities to provide 990 forms to the public; greater transparency becomes a goal in nonprofit management

2007   The Pension Protection Act is enacted mandating that all nonprofits with the exception of religious organizations must file annual information form 990 with the IRS. Organizations which fail to file for 3 consecutive years automatically lose their federal tax-exempt status

2011   Almost 300,000 nonprofits lose their tax-exempt status.  Once tax-exempt status is lost donors are unable to claim contribution as a tax deduction

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