U.S. charitable foundations gave money away to international causes at record levels in 2007. The report released by the New York-based Foundation Center says international giving by U.S. foundations totaled about $5.4 billion in 2007.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation accounted for more than half the increase in foundation giving to international causes between 2002 and 2006, said the report, which is the fourth in a series of historical snapshots since 1990.

International giving by all foundations rose by more than 50 percent between 2002 and 2006, but the Gates Foundation's increase was closer to 400 percent: from $525.8 million in 2002 to $2 billion in 2006.

Despite being the nation's largest foundation, the Gates is not the beginning or the end of the story, Foundation Center President Brad Smith said. Excluding the Seattle-based foundation from the sample, international charity still grew faster than all foundation giving during the period of the study.

The Foundation Center and its study partner, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Foundations, decided to pull the Gates Foundation dollars out of the equation this time around.

"The study will show that it's not just about the Gates Foundation ... but I would be the last person to say Gates is not a huge factor," Buchanan said.

The growth of international giving by U.S. foundations reflects the changing world and the newer generation of givers, many of whom made their money at international corporations, both Smith and Buchanan said.

"It's becoming increasingly difficult to draw borders around problems," Smith said. A good example is the issue of climate change - anyone trying to contribute to environmental solutions has to look at the whole planet.

Buchanan said older family foundations created in the 1940s or 50s were largely focused on giving back to the community where the wealth was generated. Those foundations are now being run by a generation that has more global connections. Newer foundations were started by their contemporaries.

Donna Gordon Blankinship, AP