Disengaged Giving

February 9, 2011 at 6:48 PM Leave a comment

This thoughtful article from the Harvard Crimson questions the effect of social network and online giving. The author, Niharika S. Jain, suggests the effect of such thoughtlessly easy giving options is leading to “a culture of disengaged philanthropy.”

The truth is that making spur-of-the-moment contributions allows donors to feel good about making a difference without necessarily thinking critically about the causes we support…“Liking” charities’ Facebook pages or clicking once to make a donation is no substitute for being an active, engaged citizen who thinks critically about social issues and social change.

In many ways this isn’t new. Most giving is expressive giving; we donate our 10, 20, 50 dollars not expecting a great impact, but to show our support for a particular cause. (Although we hope collectively our small donations will be impactful.) Real change and real impact requires the kind of engagement the author urges.

In fact, engagement itself is probably not enough. Chesterton argued that to truly reform something, you must first love it. “The Romans did not love Rome because she was great; they made Rome great because they loved her.” (We’re quoting from memory, but that’s the gist of it.) That’s why the average, non-billionaire type person who wants to have a true impact is well advised to pick a smaller cause literally and figuratively close to home and dedicating his time to that.


Entry filed under: General, Innovation.

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News about philanthropy and the charitable instinct


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