August 4, 2010
What have you done for the nation's charities lately?
You've probably heard that charitable giving has been on the decline since the recession began. The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University reports that donor contributions have fallen by about 5.5 percent since the end of 2007. With the number of non-profit organizations in the United States having tripled in the past 25 years, this means more competition for donor dollars than ever.
[Photo by Tracy O]
That's why it had to music to the ears of non-profits everywhere this week when, in a campaign spearheaded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, 40 U.S. billionaires promised to donate more than half their wealth to philanthropic or charitable causes. (So far, Paul Allen is the only other billionaire in Washington State to join what Bill, Melinda, and Warren have dubbed the Giving Pledge. View the full list of U.S. billionaires who've made this pledge here.)
Some skeptics have said that these billionaires have always been overly generous and that such loot-sharing won't be news until the upper-crust scrooges of the world follow suit. Others have argued that these donors probably would have had to fork over 50 percent or more of their assets to Uncle Sam anyway, calling this giving campaign nothing more than a whole lot of self-congratulatory horn tooting.
Call me a sap, but I find it inspiring that people wealthy beyond my wildest dreams would want to do some good in the world with all their fortune. If this rash of giving convinces even one self-absorbed zillionaire or bling-happy, tabloid-posing celebrity to think of someone other than themselves, I'll consider it a success. It's certainly had this working class peon take a closer look at her own charitable giving habits, rotten economy be damned.
In fact, a number of regular Joes and Janes do donate their financial surplus in extraordinary amounts. Since 2007, the organization Bolder Giving has chronicled the tales of dozens of "people who have given away at least 50 percent of their income, assets, or business profits."
What about you? Where do you stand on making charitable donations these days? If you're in a position to donate some of your income, savings, or business revenue, has your giving increased, decreased, or stayed the same since before the recession began?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
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Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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