Many years ago, when I thought I had quite a good income, I felt guilty at my good fortune. I realised that some people and businesses had a principle of giving some of their earnings back to the community. I thought of my experiences living in the US, where rich people donate very large amounts back to others less well off. I thought too of the Mormon philosophy of giving back 10% of your income. So I thought that I should give back too, on a regular basis.
Giving is Secret
I found that Australians don’t seem to want to discuss giving. Do you donate? Who do you give to? Certainly, how much you give is too much to ask. And the US concept of philanthropy – large scale giving back – seems not to be common here. I don’t know if I give more or less than other people. I do it because I think it is right to give to those who are less able.
My sense in Australia is that most people give very little. The average for Australia for all giving is around $400 per person, according to the Bureau of Statistics. The average amount of donations received by my NFP is around $15 per member. Not much really, is it? Collectors will tell you that poorer people are actually more generous than those with plenty to give.
Of course people argue that they give in other ways. You can give time. But this is volunteering, and ‘giving’ or ‘donating’ or ‘philanthropy’ are about money. You can give by proxy if you are a public servant, since your salary is less than it would be in a similar commercial job.
Why We Should Give
You can afford it. Most people who don’t give think they can’t afford it. But some of the best years of our lives were the year when we had no income at all, when I was studying overseas, and the years when we had young children and only one income. Somehow, we had enough money to live on, despite reduced incomes. So if you have plenty of income, or two incomes, you almost certainly can ‘afford’ to give.
Another reason for giving is the pleasure you get from the receiver, particularly if the amount is significant. When organisations are enabled to do things which they couldn’t do otherwise, they are so grateful, they let you know. You feel better knowing you have helped someone. Just like volunteering time, volunteering money can achieve similar things. You have a less direct connection when you give money but you simply don’t have the time to give to all the organisations you want to help. Money helps them buy time, skills or resources from others.
And we are a rich society. Currently, richer people (which includes me) aren’t paying enough tax. One way to pay tax back is to contribute money directly to deserving organisations, rather than using the government as a filter. And you probably get a 30% or more tax deduction from it. Even more reason to do it.
Who to Give to?
There are thousands of deserving organisations, so the choice is difficult. I try to choose a small number of organisations that I think are worth donating to. My criteria are:
- Do I have some personal knowledge of the value of the work they do? Do I know someone who works there; someone who has received service from the organisation; is it close to where I live or work?
- Do I think the type of work is valuable? Does it accord with my beliefs of what work should be supported? I try to spread my money into different areas, supporting one organisation in each area.
- Are they efficient with money they receive? I try to support organisations which have low levels of administrative expenditure, compared with money going to end services.
- Will my donation make a difference? Donating to smaller organisations can be more rewarding personally than to larger ones for whom you are an insignificant donor.
I review the list each year. Some people like to have their name linked to their donation. I like to make a few, larger, but anonymous, donations. I don’t want to be seen as a do-gooder. I don’t want the recognition or any praise.
Christmas is coming. Think about becoming a donor, or giving more than you have in the past. You can get more satisfaction from giving to others than saving or spending the money on yourself. You can afford it. Enjoy the satisfaction of helping others.