Monday, June 22, 2009

Give, Don't Tell

Apparently, among charitable circles, there has been an approximately 14 percent jump in large ($1 million or more), anonymous gifts.


Well, there are many possible reasons.

Two common ones, according to Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, are "aversion to solicitations from other charities, and a desire to keep a gift secret from family or friends." Because you don't want your backward, mean, conservative second cousin in Appalachia finding out you gave $3 million dollars to the Foundation for Godless Liberals, even if it does mean she's willing to become an evolution-toting atheist for the sake of the cash. And you don't want the Godless Liberal Foundation barking after its equivalent sum, either.

OK, I guess I can buy that.

Now, some are speculating that this trend reflects Rich Guilt, or not wanting to flaunt one's wealth when so many are suffering. (Tell that to our local Luxury Home Tour). Correspondingly, giving lavishly and publicly could lead to questions like, "Hey, Lou, where'd you get all that spare cash? Little insider trading?"

And who wants that?

I think it's most likely that people are shielding themselves from the capacious need that exists out there nowadays, especially in the social services sector. I guess I can understand that. You have some extra funds; you choose your benefactor; you give; you walk away; no one ever bothers you again; collect your reward in heaven.

Thing is, the people who have a million or more to give, probably do have a few more spare millions to give, and they know it, and that's where the guilt comes in. Proportionately, they have more, and more to spare, and it's just a fact.

My little family is middle class, I guess, though I don't really know what that means, economically. Some shoddy internet research shows me that no one in America really knows what it means, but that most Americans think they are it. The Census Bureau said that the middle 20% of the country earns between $40,000 and $95,000 annually, and a nonprofit reports that it "conventionally" means families with incomes between $25,000 and $100,000 each year. (Please note that "shoddy internet research" means that it took me 12 seconds, I chose PBS because I trust Bill Moyers, and the data is 6 years old). But it was clear from the last campaign, that once poverty was out of the picture with Mr. Edwards, the "middle class" was the siren song of all politicians. In any case, the 40-95 seems more reasonable to me, as there is a gulf of difference between 25 thousand for a family and 100 thousand for a family. So, yeah, we're middle class, by that definition.

I don't give to charity. I am a member of public radio and public TV and a few nonprofit organizations, and I have kept giving to them, but other than that, I am saving money because we could be mere inches away from slipping out of that middle class into hard times, and the safety net is not what it was. If I were giving, would I do it anonymously? Probably not. I don't think that my C-note would set off any bells and whistles around here.

Charity knitted dishcloths, anyone?

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