Free enterprise and philanthropy are inseparable

‘Tis the season for gift giving, not just to our friends and loved ones, but also to our favorite charities. Studies show that many charities receive half their donations in the final months of the year.

Sadly, thanks to our still struggling economy, many private foundations, corporations, and everyday citizens are once again finding themselves with less to give this holiday season. This situation reflects a truth that some non-profit leaders and their allies in government may find rather inconvenient: free enterprise and philanthropy are inexorably intertwined.

Virtually every source of funding for charitable work around the world hinges on the free market and the wealth it creates. The direct involvement of free enterprise in charity can be seen in the remarkable philanthropy of such American capitalist icons as Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and MacArthur.

The Corporate Giving Survey, based on the data of 184 companies including over half of the Fortune 100, found that those businesses gave over $15.5 billion in 2010. Indirectly, businesses create jobs which allow individual citizens to give, and many private foundations have their charitable assets heavily invested in corporate America. 

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