Over the past years, philanthropy in the United States has grown as a trend of status, wealth, and good fortune. Celebrities, government officials, and the wealthiest of individuals donate towards philanthropic organizations. Although this is a normal form of sharing in America, other countries do not view philanthropy equally. Italy, for example, has charity organizations, but none of which are categorized as philanthropy.
Instead of a plethora of philanthropic organizations in Italy, the country bases charity primarily central to the Catholic Church. It acts as the “middle body” where people give to the church so they can give to those in need. The Catholic Church acts as a mediator. With the immense difference in charity and donation in countries abroad, Italy’s unique giving strategies represent its culture, religion, and individual pride of its people.
History and Overview
Italy is a diverse country with economical and social differences between the North and South region. Therefore it is difficult to talk of one unique culture of ‘giving’ because each region’s historical background and economic differences vary. Because of the geographic regions, Italy views the country into two countries: the North and South. “The Appenine mountains run directly down the peninsula’s center, and its northern range almost completely cuts off the North from the South” (Gannon, 2001, p. 305). The South’s economy is primarily based on farming, while the North’s business-based market leads to a higher standard of living. In spite of these differences, both regions bear similar outlooks pertaining to charity.
According to Fukuyama (http://www.charityvillage.com/cv/research/rphl4.html) there are certain nations that enjoy relatively high levels of “spontaneous sociability”, where people tend to trust each other more. In particular, Italy’s trust level is moderately low. In “high trust” societies, the process of ‘giving’ has proven relatively easy; people are used to forming associations beyond the family. Hence, the modern business corporation was introduced in places like the United States. In contrast, “low-trust” countries such as southern Italy have grown rich, but with economies based largely on family ties.
These implications for the success of Philanthropy International cause uncertainty. Will the Italian culture welcome the idea of giving outside of the family circle and adjust to the magazine’s publicity? Because of Italy’s low-trust society, the idea of philanthropy will take time to permeate. Philanthropy, or charity as generally termed in Italy, has existed for years, but the establishment of trust through organizations is a new concept. More so, the idea of publicizing giving is unheard of in Italy. Therefore, changes would be evident, but worthwhile.
Over the last decade, the Italian society devoted great attention to the nonprofit sector. Until a few years ago, organizations belonging to this sector were relatively unknown to a large share of the population and the media. However, this is not the case anymore. In fact, nonprofit organizations have gained wider public attention and now play a more significant role in the Italian welfare state. Because this nonprofit sector is gaining popularity, Philanthropy International should take advantage of this movement. If the magazine is introduced during this time when nonprofit is still gaining awareness, it will ease into the culture more easily. The Italian people may associate this movement with the introduction of the magazine and cause many to participate in this nonprofit progress.
A common feeling towards nonprofit organizations is growing in both the northern and southern regions of Italy. This overall attitude is gaining a more significant role in the Italian social and economic landscape. Several factors explaining this new attitude toward nonprofit organizations can be seen through the demographic, social, economic and legal environments. As a result of these cultural changes, the welfare system was unable to generate assistance for the differing needs (from childcare to the elderly). Although this lack of funding negatively affects the country, introducing philanthropy may form a bridge between the North and South regions.
Because of the regional separation and the reduction in the welfare system, both the North and South can come together and “celebrate the spirit of giving” for one another. Because Italy focuses strongly on helping out family, the Philanthropy International can emphasize how everyone can benefit each other. For families that cannot help one another, the more fortunate Italians can be introduced to providing charity through the magazine.
The demand for both private and public services in cultural, social, health, and recreational regions is growing tremendously. This need is why many people, as well as public authorities, began to look at non-profit organizations to more efficiently answer the current problems. At the same time, these are the reasons why the Italian nonprofit sector will play a more relevant role in the future. Because Italy is beginning to rely on one another more, philanthropy can be introduced through the magazine and how each member of Italy can make a difference in the country. With the high demand and reliance on the non-profit organizations, Philanthropy International can illustrate how one’s contribution has an effect on the society.
Until recently, few Italian citizens could provide a clear definition of ‘non-profit organization’. Although many knew about the ‘voluntary movement’ and the large number of persons volunteering their time for deserving causes, most were not aware of private organizations. This, of course, didn’t mean that nonprofit organizations did not exist in Italy, but rather that they were mixed up with other organizations and that they were not recognized as part of a specific sector of the economy. The expanding public sector, along with the lack of a clear distinction between public and private organizations, explains this confusion. Philanthropy International could clarify these confusions and instill confidence into this ‘low-trust’ society. The distinctions would be explained and the Italian culture could better understand the purpose of ‘giving’ through the magazine.
One may ask, when did this confusion begin? The unclear distinction between private, nonprofit and public organizations originates from the Italian history and legislation. In more recent times, most people understand that the non-profit sector is divided into categories including associations, foundations and social cooperatives. These organizations, taking no monetary funds from their contributions, redistribute wealth or produce goods and services that benefit the population at large. The most significant feature of traditional Italian funding is the non-profit sector. On the contrary, two other characteristics must be stressed.
First of all, donations, the distinctive element of the nonprofit sector, only account for a small amount of the revenues of Italian nonprofit organizations (around 5 % of the whole). This depends on whether legislation encourages gifts to nonprofit entities and giving to churches. Because of this small percentage, a magazine based on philanthropy would need to persuade the Italian culture of the benefits from giving in order to increase this proportion. The magazine may take time to circulate and persuade Italians to donate, but with the small percentage presently given to nonprofit organizations, there’s only hope it will increase. The introduction of a magazine such as Philanthropy International will allow individuals to better understand the purpose of donating and hopefully boost the amount of donations in Italy.
Even with the number of philanthropic organizations, many are segregated into one specific area of Italy. Of active institutions, totaling 221,412, half are localized in northern Italy. In the nonprofit organization, with 620,00 paid employees, volunteers out number them five to one. This clearly demonstrates the high quantity of people willing to donate their time to the nonprofit organizations. Not getting paid is not an issue. In addition, of the active institutions, 63.1% work in the fields of culture, sport, and recreation. Hence, there is a wide array of areas utilized by each institution. As stated earlier, the introduction of this magazine could act as a ‘bridge’ between the North and South regions.
The cluster of active and nonprofit organizations could work together to expand the number philanthropic organizations in both regions of Italy. Knowing that the people are very willing to volunteer their time, the culture is one of ‘giving.’ Philanthropy International will help emphasize this culture of donation to those who already volunteer, those interested, and those who never thought about it.