Posts filed under ‘Why We Give’

Religion and Charity

The Prescott, AZ Daily Courier remarks on the deep connection between religion and philanthropy in the United States. The driver for the editorial is the publication of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam.

‘Roughly three-quarters of charity given by highly religious Americans is indeed channeled toward religion,’ David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam wrote. ‘But religiosity provides such a boost to financial giving overall that the most religious Americans actually give more money to secular causes than do secular Americans.’

I don’t have the statistics handy – this isn’t the most data-driven blog online – but I remember reading that a vast majority of Americans’ charitable giving is through churches and other religious institutions.



December 24, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Huffington Defends Zuckerberg

In the UK’s Guardian, Arianna Huffington defends Mark Zuckerberg for his $100 million donation to the Newark school system.

I really don’t care why Mark Zuckerberg is donating $100m of his own money that will make a profound difference to the lives of Newark’s children. I care very much that it’s being done.

Perhaps this isn’t really a defense of Zuckerberg’s motivations so much as a dismissal of the question. While the question of why people give is intersting in itself, I think the only reason a giver’s motivation has practical implications is in assessing whether money is being thrown at a problem, or whether it will be used carefully with maximized impact.

RELATED: More on the Giving Pledge and the challenges of impactful giving from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s David C. Colby (at the Huffington Post).

December 24, 2010 at 11:36 AM

Altruism as Survival Strategy

New research suggest that humans may give in order to avoid being the target of the envious, reports the Association for Psychological Science.

A group of Tilburg University professors had decided that envy comes in two flavors, benign and malicious:

[They] found that people with benign envy were motivated to improve themselves, to do better so they could be more like the person they envied. On the other hand, people with malicious envy wanted to bring the more successful person down.

They then devised some clever studies: First to make people feel like they would be the target of either malicious or benign envy, then to see if people behaved more or less generously in the immediate aftermath. People who had reason to believe they might be the target of malicious envy behaved more generously.

These sorts of claims are always disconcerting. Is even charity ultimately selfish, if only in origin?

December 7, 2010 at 8:23 PM

Charity Begins at Home

A group of researchers funded by Notre Dame is studying why people give – or don’t – reports USA Today.

I find University of Kansas’s Omri Gillath’s claim that “attachment security” leads to giving fairly convincing:

Attachment security is formed in childhood when we seek caregivers, starting with our mothers, to protect us. People who have been neglected or rejected by caregivers can develop attachment insecurity.

If you feel confident of your own safety and security, it’s much easier to feel you can afford to spare some of your resources to help others. If you feel like your own survival is forever in doubt, you’re more likely to hoard what you have.

December 1, 2010 at 10:35 PM

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News about philanthropy and the charitable instinct