Yes, we CAN Count on Charitable Giving

Americans’ charitable giving continues despite the economic downturn. I contrast this fact with the common opinion that, if not for government aid programs – e.g. food stamps, Social Security, unemployment insurance and Medicare – poor people would be dying in ditches by the side of the road while white men in top hats told them to get a job.

Surprisingly Resilient Generosity

As more Americans turn to charity amid worsening economic gloom, operators of food banks and other aid groups are relying on the surprisingly resilient generosity of their neighbors and finding that even when times are tough, people still give.

In Seattle, Boeing Co. employees tripled their cash donations this year to Northwest Harvest, operator of Washington’s largest food bank. And every week, Northwest Harvest spokeswoman Claire Acey says, companies call to say their employees have decided to skip their holiday party and buy food for the hungry instead.

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University says that historically, charitable giving has been recession-proof.

Contributions to American charities have increased during 39 of the past 40 years in today’s dollars, and a change in the tax laws — not the stock market crash — can be blamed for the drop in 1987, said Melissa Brown, associate director of research for the center. Between 69 and 72 percent of people give routinely, she said.

We Empathize with our Neighbors

People empathize with their neighbors. When 70 per cent of us routinely support charities – even though government takes 50 per cent of our purchasing power – then you know that we can count on each other to voluntarily provide help when needed. Imagine how much more we would give if government stopped taxing us so much!

The Solution to this “Problem” does not Involve Government

We do NOT need government – an embezzling, armed-bank-robbing Robin Hood – to create a “safety net” with our hard-earned dollars (in the form of both inflation and more obvious taxes). We can voluntarily associate to do that ourselves, and a whole lot better, thank you very much. In other words: Government: Butt out!

Photo credit: Daquella manera. Photo license.

By George Donnelly

I'm building a tribe of radical libertarians to voluntarize the world by 2064. Join me.

2 replies on “Yes, we CAN Count on Charitable Giving”

I concur that poor economic conditions can rally people around their community. I have worked for non-profits almost exclusively, and often in a fund-raising capacity. Because local and federal fund allocation directly impacts the bottom line of many charitable organizations, we always mentioned this fact when discussing the reasons for giving. I loved discussing this: inevitably, liberals would express sympathy and give generously, and conservatives would mention the fact that government shouldn’t be responsible for shoring up charities. That’s when I delighted in remarking, “Yes, that’s your job. But only if you believe in what we’re doing.” And I truly spoke my heart when I said that. I don’t want to extract donations from people who don’t believe in the cause!

People might have different reasons for justifying charitable giving, but a negative economy isn’t one of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *