Swedes perform poorly in charitable giving survey

Sweden came in 45th place among 153 countries in a survey measuring charitable behaviour around the world, tied with neighbouring Finland, as well as Lebanon, Zambia, and Ghana.

Swedes perform poorly in charitable giving survey
Social Democrat Carin Jämtin collects funds for Pakistan at Sergels torg, March

The ranking comes from the World Giving Index, the first survey to analyse charitable behaviour around the world on a large scale and compiled by the UK-based Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).

Australia and New Zealand topped the Index, while Madagascar came in last.

CAF used a Gallup survey to evaluate the charitable behaviour of people in 153 countries representing 95 percent of the world’s population.

The survey looked at the percentage of the population that donated to a charity, volunteered time to an organization, and helped a complete stranger or someone they did not know.

It also asked respondents whether they had given money to charity in the last month and to rank how happy they were with life on a scale of one to ten.

Overall, Sweden achieved a score of 37 percent in the ranking. According to the index, 52 percent of Swedes gave money, 12 percent gave time, and 47 percent helped a stranger. CAF also gave Sweden a well being score of 7.5 out of 10 overall.

By contrast, Sweden is the most generous country in the world in terms of official development assistance as a percentage of gross national income, giving 1.12 percent, according to an April OECD survey. It is also eighth overall in absolute terms, donating $4.55 billion in 2009.

But Sweden didn’t rank as wel in the World Giving Index in comparison to its Nordic neighbours. Iceland, for example, came in 14th place, Denmark tied for the 18th spot, and Norway came in 25th place.

Other European countries on the list included Ireland, tied for 3rd with Canada; Switzerland, which shared 5th with the US; the Netherlands (7th); the UK (tied at 8th with Sri Lanka); and Austria in 10th place.

For all countries, CAF compared the strength of the relationship between giving with both a nation’s GDP and the happiness of its population. CAF found that the link between happiness and giving is stronger than wealth.

“Donating money to charity is something that is traditionally seen as being driven by how wealthy a person is,” director of research Richard Harrison said in a statement.

“However, it is clear that happiness plays an important role in influencing whether people give.”

While only 4 percent of Lithuanians had donated money to charity when the study was conducted in March 2010, 83 percent of Maltese demonstrated their generosity financially.

Separately, volunteerism ranged from only 2 percent in Cambodia to 61 percent in Turkmenistan.

Numbers also varied widely within each country. Although 8 percent of Liberians gave to charity every month, 76 percent of them helped a stranger, more than any country in the world.

Overall, 20 percent of respondents had volunteered time, 30 percent had given money and 45 percent had helped a stranger.

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Volunteering for English speakers hits Sweden

Volunteering in Sweden has never been easy for non-Swedish speaking foreigners, but the founders of a new project in Stockholm are hoping to change that by creating a volunteer hub for expats who speak English, The Local's Oliver Gee discovers.

Volunteering for English speakers hits Sweden

UK-native Claire Thomas, who recently launched The English Volunteering Project in Stockholm, has volunteering in her blood.

Coming from an English family which has been involved with volunteering “for generations”, she claims that helping people is part of her life.

When she found herself in Sweden in 2010, thanks to her husband’s new job, it wasn’t long before she started scouting for volunteer opportunities on Swedish shores, but the initial searching proved fruitless.

“I realized fairly quickly that while Sweden does already have a great volunteer recruitment agency, the “Volontärbyrån”, there was no real opportunity to sign up and help if you were an English speaker,” she tells The Local.

At least not then.

After noting the interest and potential for English-speaking help around Sweden, Thomas proposed a collaboration with the Volontärbyrån – to add an English recruitment section to their website, and has since got the go-ahead for the project, dubbed The English Volunteering Project.

Thomas claims the concept will be a great way to help ease some of the initial challenges associated with moving to a foreign country.

“It can be hard to find any kind of work here when you don’t speak Swedish, and it’s often tough to meet people. When you can tick off these kinds of boxes, while at the same time giving much needed help, the experience can be really rewarding,” she explains.

However, many foreigners miss this opportunity due to not speaking enough Swedish to learn about or meaningfully engage in existing volunteer opportunities.

And while while some expats have gotten the impression that this means Sweden is simply not interested in getting help, that is not the case at all, according to Thomas.

“It’s just a matter of accepting that Sweden is different, in a good way. Many people don’t talk or brag about their contributions to non-profit organizations like they might in other countries,” she says.

“Volunteering in Sweden can seem invisible, but it really isn’t. There is a whole different culture behind the volunteer sector, but this is not a worry – it just means things need to be negotiated differently”.

And this is where Thomas steps in.

The English Volunteering Project is now well on the way to becoming a reality, and already has Prince Charles’s seal of approval, which he personally gave Thomas during his recent visit to Stockholm.

“He told me thought it was a brilliant idea – which was really encouraging,” Thomas says.

Vanja Höglund, spokesperson for Volontärbyrån, has big expectations too, claiming that the possibility of engaging English speakers with Swedish society is an opportunity that’s too good to miss.

“It’s incredibly nice when you hear of someone who wants to contribute their time commitment, and of course we want to be able to take advantage of that commitment,” Höglund tells The Local.

“Our vision at Volontärbyrån is that everyone who wants to be able to find a volunteer assignment that fits them will be able to, and if we can reach even more people with an English translation of the service, then we’ve succeeded with our mission.”

But it has been a long road, which started in November last year, and has occupied Thomas while juggling her first pregnancy.

However, Thomas is keen to get the project through the final stages so that it’s up and running before her baby is.

“We hope to be able to work on the English web section on Volontärbyrån in June, with the Project coming into full swing in September or October,” she says.

Now all that’s missing is the funding that will allow the creating of the English sub-section.

While interest in the project may be sky high, more donations are still needed before it can be created and officially launched online.

To achieve this, the Project is setting up an account with “Funded by Me”, an online crowd-funding programme, in which people can donate to the project through a web-based social media platform.

The account will be launched in a matter of weeks, according to Thomas.

In the meantime, Thomas is still working hard on the project and volunteering in her spare time, but is keen to point out that volunteering is a two-way street where everybody can gain something positive.

“I love volunteering, but it’s not just about giving. In fact, volunteering has actually given me quite a lot. It’s been a way for me to take the focus off myself when things haven’t been easy,” she explains, adding that her work on this project is completely voluntary as well.

“Volunteering enriches your life, and helps others at the same time. Hopefully English speakers in Sweden can jump on board and help get this project going.”

UPDATE: Click here for the The English Volunteering Project donation website