New Internationalist

Bingos the Facts

Issue 383

• By far the largest NGOs of any kind (not just international ones) are in the US. Cultural traditions here often favour ‘nonprofits’ over government activity across a range of social issues. Some of the biggest (YMCAs in particular) generate large revenues from services provided in the US.

• The $248.3 billion privately donated to all nonprofits in the US in 2004 was 20 times larger than official US overseas aid and almost half as much again as the annual income of all 215 million people living in Indonesia.

• More than a third (35.5%) of these donations went to ‘religion’; just 2.1% were designated ‘international’. This contrasts with Britain, where ‘international’ tops the list of donations to charitable causes.

• Out of total donations in 2004, 75.6% came from individuals, just 4.8% from corporations

• Government funding features prominently – sometimes predominantly – in the revenues of many of the biggest US ‘nonprofits’, and of bingos in particular.

• These are huge organizations, matching in size many transnational corporations – the American Red Cross alone has an annual income similar to that of Mali.1

Annual income of US nonprofit organizations Selected from the top 100 in 2003.2

What they are

• Some international NGOs have ‘consultative’ status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN. They are divided between large ‘general’ ones whose work covers most of the ECOSOC agenda, and ‘special’ ones that do not – though some of these are also quite big. The number of both grew slowly until the 1990s, then very much faster. This was partly due to new, and more open policies at the UN: but there’s also a growing number of bingos wanting this status.

Number of NGOs with consultative status at the UN. 3

Where they are

• Between them, Europe and North America account for more than two-thirds of the NGOs with consultative status at the UN – and for a much greater proportion of the largest, richest and most influential of them.

Representation of NGOs at the UN, 2004. 3

Where they’re going

• In most rich countries an increasing proportion of charitable giving goes to a small number of very large organizations.

• In 2003 World Vision Australia accounted for 41.61% of all funds raised from the public in Australia for international development; the next largest, Oxfam Community Aid Abroad, accounted for just 5.56%.4

• In Britain, 511 out of 166,336 registered charities received almost half of all charitable donations in 2004, which had doubled since 1998.5

Big charities in Britain. 5

• Despite the recent emphasis on official aid, and on reaffirming the target of 0.7% of national income in the UN Millennium Development Goals, many rich governments had in fact been cutting back aid during the 1990s – leaving bingos to cover over the gap.

• In Australia, government funding of NGOs for international development fell in real terms between 1998 and 2003. But total funds managed by NGOs increased by more than a third – mostly from private donations.4

• Canada’s official development assistance declined from 0.45% of national income at the beginning of the 1990s to 0.22% by 2001 – and with it, official support for bingos.6

• In 2002, out of the total $19 billion official aid budgets of all members of the rich-country Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an average 5% ($950 million) went to or through NGOs.6 In Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland the figure was over 10% – in France and Portugal less than 1%.7

• The 2005 and 2006 revenues of bingos in Britain will be inflated by the record response to the Asian tsunami appeal, which focused on the members of the Disasters Emergency Committee. The total raised was $447 million.

Asian tsunami charitable appeal in Britain: income for members of the Disasters Emergency Committee8 Combined budget 2005 & 2006
  1. www.aafrc.org and World Development Report 2005, World Bank.
  2. The NonProfit Times, 1 November 2004,
  3. www.un.org
  4. Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), Annual Report 2004.
  5. www.charity-commission.gov.uk
  6. www.oecd.org
  7. 7 Donor Atlas, European Union, May 2004. http://europa.eu.int
  8. www.dec.org.uk

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