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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

My Inner Voice Can't Stop Comparing

Whenever I leave Turkey, I can't stop myself comparing everything to home. The things I compare the most are related to my work.

The United States and Turkey are completely different when it comes to the nonprofit sector. The conditions that created and expanded the nonprofit sector in the U.S. are non-existent, inconsistent or immature in Turkey. Naturally I cannot explain all the differences and similarities in the nonprofit sectors of the two countries in this post, but I wanted to share a few insights and observations that caught my attention. 
Let's start with terminology. First, we do not use the term “nonprofit organization”; we use “civil society organization” or “non-governmental organization” instead. Secondly, we do not use the term “sector,” we use words such as area, arena, and field. Why? In the United Sates, the nonprofit sector is not so different from the private sector in terms of professionalism and organizational structures. The two are, however, extremely different in Turkey, and nonprofit organizations avoid using any term that will associate them with the for-profit sector such as “sector”, “client” and “marketing”. The Turkish “nonprofit sector” has its own terminology.

 According to the Charities Aid Foundation's (CAF) Global Giving Index 2013, the U.S. ranks first while Turkey ranks 128th out of 135 countries.*


CAF 2013 Ranking Helping a stranger Donating money to
Volunteering time
United States of
1 77% 62% 45%
Turkey 128 34% 13% 5%


Even the small chart above says a lot about the significant difference between two countries, but here are some other points that I have observed:

  •  Although U.S. society is portrayed as very individualistic and pragmatic in the media in my country, the results indicates that Americans are much more eager to help others. In my opinion, the gap in volunteering and donations can be explained by the size and accessibility of the sectors. 
    • For example, there are not as many organizations in Turkey as there are in the U.S. that ask for individual donations or provide volunteering opportunities. In other words, the lack of supply due to low operational capacity and resources explains the lack of demand. 
    • The individual giving and volunteering is lower in Turkey, but people tend to give and volunteer informally. Giving to neighbors, relatives, etc. is more common than giving to a nonprofit. This applies to volunteering as well. 
  •  In both countries, religious giving is the common type of giving. It is the largest share of charitable giving with 32% in the U.S.** and 36% in Turkey. *** 
  • Barriers to freedom of assembly and freedom of thought are a major challenge for the development of the nonprofit sector in Turkey. The legal restrictions related to fundraising are a primary obstacle for the nonprofits in Turkey in the lack of enabling tax system. 
  •  Smaller sized nonprofit organizations face similar difficulties in both countries: They cannot fundraise because they do not fundraise.
  • It also surprised me to see so much media coverage about corruption in the nonprofit sector in the U.S. despite the fact that there are many tools of accountability and transparency. 

My inner voice not only compares, but also keeps asking why. I try to understand the similarities and differences because I believe the more we analyze, the more it is likely to find ways for improvement and development.


Derya Kaya is a Fulbright Hubert H. Humphrey fellow from Turkey at ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is experienced in several areas of the nonprofit sector, having worked as a development professional, social entrepreneur, volunteer and activist in her country for almost 10 years. She works for Women for Women’s Human Rights-New Ways, a nongovernmental organization that promotes gender equality and women’s human rights.


ASU Lodestar Center Blog