What’s happening to giving?
An unintended consequence of the Printing Money Epoch is a change in our attitudes towards, and our practices of, giving. Once the prerogative of the beggar on the street corner helped by the kindly gesture of a coin dropped into a tin cup, giving has become big business. Raising funds is a highly professional occupation – one of the few that is growing and will continue to do so for a hundred years. The world has a lot of surplus money.
Corporations give to assuage their social responsibility; the incredibly wealthy do so as part of their public relations programmes and, to be fair, because many of them see a genuine need and are generous enough to respond to it. You and I give when pictures of disasters and starving children move us to show that we care.
Can asking people for money be a fulfilling career? Tremendously so. Government redistribution of wealth through taxation brings out the worst in people. This is a largely irrational reaction although worldwide legendary government inefficiency in the handling of voters’ money is an additional spur. There is something ignoble about taxation whereas ‘giving’ is the epitome of the best of human spirit.
But we are cautious. Most of us have at some time or another been robbed by a friend who borrowed with no intention of repaying or by an appeal for urgent funds that turned out to be significantly eaten up by administration costs. Giving away money is as difficult as hanging onto it. In an activity that has become so sophisticated we need guidance, especially over the tax breaks that may accompany donations. Professional fund raisers may never replace accountants but they can steer us in the direction of efficient generosity.
Now an army of dedicated professionals, wily in the ways of painlessly extracting our hard-won wealth, are growing up to make the whole process better than banking and more satisfying than conventional tracker-fund investing. Because, clearly, giving is a very special and important form of investing with consequences beyond simple returns of more money.
The world doesn’t have a conscience but each individual does. That conscience is denied by many, dormant in the majority but beginning to reawaken in lots of people.
Discrimination in wealth distribution, lack of the basics needed to appreciate the gift of life, a stirring of a sense of community and the equity that it implies, are all encouraging many to do more than pray for fairness.
Donors are busy people with commitments beyond simply understanding how to be generous. They do not have the time to undertake the due diligence necessary to make a good gift. These are the people who need the help of professional fund-raisers of high integrity and demonstrably enforced standards. Those who successfully devote their lives to the business of giving will reap rewards beyond the material.
They will receive the gratitude of both givers and receivers for they will have facilitated generosity.
There are few nobler callings than that.