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The Smithsonian Institution is the largest museum in the world. In fact, the institution is actually 19 different museums located mostly in Washington, D.C. One of the museums, the National Museum of American History, features an exhibit titled Giving in America. The exhibit features a number of items that highlight the history of American philanthropy. Below is a list of some of these items and some more information about their significance.

March of Dimes Collection Can

The March of Dimes was originally named the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. It was founded in 1938 in an effort to fight polio; however, today it focuses on improving the health of newborns and mothers. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was diagnosed with polio as an adult, founded the group. The March of Dimes was a promotion event created by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Both the radio and movie industry helped promote the event. The March of Dimes became an annual event where people, especially children, were encouraged to donate a dime to help fight polio. After his death, the US dime was designed to honor Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Ice Bucket Challenge bucket

In the summer of 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge became a viral activity. The point of the challenge was to raise money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Participants were “challenged” to dump a bucket of ice water on their head or donate money to ALS research if they refused the challenge. The popularity of the challenge helped raise awareness of ALS and generated an increase in donations to organizations that research the disease. The bucket’s inclusion in the exhibit demonstrates how philanthropic giving has changed as a result of technology.

Group Portrait of Members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Their Beneficiaries

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) was founded in 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland. Its original goal was to promote the improvement of its members’ lives and provide relief to those in need. The IOOF was just one of the many fraternal groups that formed during the 1800s in an effort to help those in need. Today fraternal groups like the IOOF are still in operation, but now the work that they do is supplemented by the many nonprofits in operation.

Fill the Boot Fundraising Drive


Since 1954 the International Association of Fire Fighters’ (IAFF) Fill the Boot campaign has collected money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Today the IAFF remains the biggest supporter of the MDA. The group’s campaign is another example of annual fundraising events that started in the 1900s and continue today as popular options for raising money to help others.

To learn more about the Giving in America, visit the exhibit’s website.