Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise
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Handbook on the Economics of Reciprocity and Social Enterprise

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Stefano Zamagni

The recent era of economic turbulence has generated a growing enthusiasm for an increase in new and original economic insights based around the concepts of reciprocity and social enterprise. This stimulating and thought-provoking Handbook not only encourages and supports this growth, but also emphasises and expands upon new topics and issues within the economics discourse.
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Chapter 25: Philanthropy beyond the sectoral approach

Ricardo Abramovay


There are two basic dimensions to the study of philanthropy. The first emphasizes the impressive magnitude of charitable donations, whether in money, property or time. There are 11 million American citizens engaged in the non-profit sector through their participation in 2 million tax-exempt organizations (Teegarden et al, 2011:7). Their 15 billion hours of work would correspond to 279 billion, if they were converted into salaries (Wing et al, 2010). At the end of 2010, the 100 million American foundations held assets amounting to US$ 569 billion (Stuckler et al, 2011:3). Internationally, the sector handles no less than US$ 2 trillion a year and employs 45 million workers, if volunteers are included; that is 4.5 percent of all the economically active individuals in the world. If the sector were a country on its own, it would be the world’s fifth largest economy (Salamon, 2009). It would be a mistake, however, to examine philanthropy from a sector-based perspective alone, as if it were a kind of segment apart from social life, albeit a highly important one. Charitable acts, donations motivated by conviction or compassion, local organizations set up for the sole purpose of opposing unjust situations, have been inherent to all social organization throughout history (Ambrose, 2005).

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