Doing Good: Why do the poor give more than the rich?

Money falling into a pileNOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Have you told a friend about Gayle Campbell’s fascinating series about the ways Americans are “doing good”—or, rather, the ways we think we’re doing good? It’s easy to share these columns with the social media icons on this page. Here is her fourth of five parts …

Yesterday, we learned that Americans generally donate around 2% of their discretionary income to charity. The number is a far cry from the 10% often encouraged by charities and religious organizations.

We could point to plenty of reasons for the discrepancy—tight finances and a tough economy would likely top the list. But that doesn’t seem to stop low-income households in the U.S. from giving.

Did you know that low-income households tend to donate a much larger share of their discretionary income than the wealthy?

In 2011, Americans in the top 20% income bracket contributed 1.3 percent of their income to charity, while Americans in the bottom 20% donated 3.2 percent of their income. The Atlantic Magazine calls this “one of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America.”

What gives?

Some experts have speculated that the wealthy are simply less generous, and as wealth increases, compassion, altruism and ethical behavior decrease. What’s more—a study at The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that wealthy individuals who live in affluent areas are less likely to give than those who live in more socioeconomically diverse areas.

Simply put: When the rich don’t see the poor, their inclination to give decreases.

Research by social psychologist Paul Piff, over the last several years, generally supports this argument. Want to hear from Piff? Here’s a 16-minute TED talk by Piff titled “Does Money Make You Mean?”

The percentage of income donated isn’t the only major difference in how the rich and poor are giving. The wealthy tend to direct their donations not to the needs of the poor, but to other causes including cultural institutions or universities (often alma maters.) The poor, on the other hand, tend to give to religious organizations and social-service charities.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your experiences!
Are you surprised to hear to hear those with the least are giving the most?
Does increased wealth often lead to decreased compassion?
Why aren’t the rich giving to charities that primarily serve the poor?

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Categories: Getting AheadUncategorized

Doing Good: What 10 percent could do

Chronicle of Philanthropy Stubborn 2 percent

Click this preview image to visit the Chronicle of Philanthropy and read the entire report.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, Gayle Campbell is exploring the ways we think we’re doing good. Here is the third of her five parts …

10% is the number we often hear in conversations on charitable giving. The origins of the figure date back to ancient times, when kings or rulers often mandated civilians pay a tenth of their goods or income to be offered as a sacrifice to the gods, or maintain the kingdom. In many religious traditions today, members are asked to “tithe,” or give back a tenth of their income to God.

On average, however, Americans generally give away just 2 percent of their disposable income, according to Giving USA, an annual report conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. That’s a sizeable difference from the 10% giving level often suggested by charities and churches.

So, what could change if more of us gave our money away?

Giving What We Can, the organization we covered yesterday, gives us one example: “If the average US citizen gave 10% of his or her income to the Against Malaria Foundation, then each year it could distribute 700 mosquito nets, preventing 190 cases of malaria and 2.2 deaths. This would amount to saving 90 lives over the course of his or her life.”

Mike Holmes, of, points out that if all Christians tithed 10%, there would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute, and over the course of five years, hunger, starvation and death from preventable disease could be relieved, illiteracy eliminated and the world’s water and sanitation crisis solved.

Curious what kind of difference you could make by giving 10%? Check out this calculator to see how many lives you could save by donating 10%.

We want to hear from you!
Do you prioritize charitable giving in your finances? What keeps you motivated?
Are you surprised to hear what the world could look like if everyone gave?


You know what to do! Use those blue-”f” Facebook icons and other social-media buttons to invite friends to read along with you this week!

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Categories: Uncategorized

Doing Good: Not all donations are created equal

Visit the Giving What We Can website

CLICK THIS SNAPSHOT FROM THE “GIVING WHAT WE CAN” WEBSITE to visit this project founded by moral philosopher Dr Toby Ord in November 2009.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, Gayle Campbell is exploring the ways we think we’re doing good. Here is the second of her five parts …

$335 billion—it’s the dollar amount Americans gave to charity in 2013. A Gallup poll from the same year found 83 percent of Americans say they donated money in the past year. In yesterday’s post, we examined the ALS ice bucket challenge, which has brought in over $53 million in 10 weeks.

One thing is clear: Plenty of us are giving. But how much good is our giving really doing?

That’s the question Dr. Toby Ord, a researcher in moral philosophy at Oxford University, posed—not just for Americans but for charitable givers worldwide—nearly five years ago when he founded an organization called Giving What We Can. It’s part of a movement called effective giving, and it’s aimed at helping donors maximize the social impact of their giving. (Wikipedia also provides an overview of the project.)

Instead of focusing on typical charity evaluator metrics like overhead cost, organizations like Giving What We Can and Brookyln-based GiveWell, assess charities’ effectiveness based on the number of lives their interventions can improve or save.

Take helping the blind, for example: A $40,000 donation to fight blindness, Ord points out, is much more effective when used for $20 surgeries that reverse the effects of trachoma in Africa than it would be to provide guide dogs to blind people in the U.S. The former, Ord argues, helps cure more than 2,000 people of blindness, while the latter helps one person overcome the challenges of blindness—a 99.95% value difference.

The difference in where we give our money could mean the difference in thousands of lives.

We want to hear from you!

When was the last time you made a donation? Maybe it was to the ALS Foundation!
How did you decide on your charity of choice? Do you know your donation is making an impact?
Does Ord’s research inspire you to reconsider your giving methodology? Or do you see gaps in his thinking?


You know what to do! Use those blue-”f” Facebook icons and other social-media buttons to invite friends to read along with you this week!

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Categories: Uncategorized

Doing Good: Is the ALS Icebucket Challenge truly good?

Muppets Kermit the Frog takes the ALS Ice Bucket challengeNOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Please welcome back guest writer Gayle Campbell. I’ll tell you more about Gayle at the close of today’s column. Here is the first of her five parts on “Doing Good” …

By now, you’ve certainly seen it exploding across your social media feeds: Friends, dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, and challenging their friends to do the same. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a social campaign designed to raise awareness and funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gerhig’s disease), a fatal neurodegenerative disease.

Celebrities from former President George W. Bush to Bill Gates to Lady Gaga have all partaken in the challenge, which has brought in over $53 million in donations for the ALS Foundation, compared to $2.2 million they raised in the same time period last year.

The marketing seems brilliant: Succumb to peer pressure to prove your altruism, or face judgment from your peers.

And it’s clearly working: Facebook announced last week that more than 28 million users were talking about the challenge and 2.4 million Ice Bucket Challenge videos were shared on Facebook between June 1 and August 17.

But it’s this same logic that’s caused the campaign to be criticized by some as “Slacktivism”—online engagement that requires very little time, effort or money, offering participants the satisfaction of doing good without actually making much of an impact. One blogger even argues that participation in a feel-good cause like the Ice Bucket Challenge might lead one to compensate by doing fewer good actions in the future, an effect known as moral self-licensing.

Criticism aside, it’s hard to argue with the over 2,000% increase in donations to the ALS Association, which will be used to fund global research for treatment and a cure for the disease that affects approximately 30,000 Americans.

What do you think? We want to hear from you!

Have you participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge? If so, what motivated you to get on board?
If you’ve avoided the campaign, why?
Do you think the challenge promotes activism, or “slactivism”?






You know what to do! Use those blue-”f” Facebook icons and other social-media buttons to invite friends to read along with you this week!


Long-time readers of OurValues may recall that Gayle Campbell once was Media Director of our online project. A University of Michigan grad, today, she’s a professional communicator in Washington D.C., working in the fields of international development and exchange. Gayle occasionally returns to write on millennial matters, social justice issues and doing good. Click here to enjoy her earlier columns in OurValues. (If you click here, you’ll see today’s column at the top of the new page, but you can then scroll down to read 10 more).

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Categories: Pursuit of HappinesRespect

Post-Racial America: Is race getting too much attention?

Protester in Ferguson Missouri

A protester in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has ordered the Missouri National Guard to withdraw from Ferguson, leaving behind a host of questions about race and race relations in America.

Do you think the shooting of Michael Brown raises important questions about race? Do you think race is getting too much attention?

This week, we’ve considered the specific events in Ferguson, as well as the larger issue of a post-racial nation: whether the idea of post-racial America is just a dangerous fantasy, the sharp contrast in how whites and blacks view the situation in Ferguson, the importance of a role for the federal government in local affairs, and acts of kindness amidst the turmoil and chaos in Ferguson.

Today, we look at the political divide in views about Ferguson and race relations.

Forty-four percent Americans say that Brown’s shooting raises important issues about race, according to a new Pew poll. But Republicans and Democrats have sharply different opinions. Just over two of ten Republicans (22%) say the Ferguson situation raises important issues about race, while more than two-thirds of Democrats (68%) say the same.

Is race getting too much attention in this case? Six of ten Republicans (61%) say it is, according to Pew. Only 21% of Democrats say that race is getting too much attention.

About two-thirds of the population of Ferguson is African Americans (67.4% in the 2010 Census). The police force has 50 white officers and 4 black officers.

As we conclude this week …

What are your views about the shooting of Michael Brown and the aftermath in Ferguson?

Do you think the shooting raises important questions about race?

Do you think race is getting too much attention?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Post-Racial America: Kindness in Ferguson?

Kindness Blog spots good things in FergusonImages of the chaos in Ferguson, Missouri, have made headlines around the world. Street scenes look like a war zone. Amidst the tragedy, however, have been kindness and generosity, reports the Kindness Blog. Here are some of these acts of compassion. What do you make of them?

  • A woman walked a mile to the site to hand out free water, and later milk to wash tear gas from the eyes of those who had been affected.
  • The roads around the Canfield Green Apartments—near the spot where Michael Brown was shot and killed—have been blocked. Volunteers are delivering food for families with young kids who can’t get out.
  • Area residents are offering free car rides for those who can’t get to their cars or can’t get home.
  • People are opening their homes to strangers, offering a safe haven or even just a sympathetic conversation.
  • During the day, volunteers come out to clean the streets of trash and debris.

Kindness is the #1 character strength in America, as I discussed in United America. Sometimes it’s hard to see it. But these acts of kindness remind us.

In troubled times, what acts of kindness have you witnessed?

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Categories: Uncategorized

Post-Racial America: Do we need the feds after all?

President Barack Obama talks with Attorney General Eric Holder

THE WHITE HOUSE chose to post this “Photo of the Day” of President Barack Obama discussing the situation in Ferguson with Attorney General Eric Holder to illustrate the strong federal concern about events in Missouri. (Photo by Pete Souza provided for public use.)

Attorney General Eric Holder is in Ferguson, Missouri, today as part of the Justice Department’s independent civil rights investigation into the case of Michael Brown, the teenager shot and killed by police. Earlier, the feds announced their own autopsy, making it the third forensic examination of the body.

What does the federal government’s presence tell us?

A majority of Americans (60%) believe the federal government is too big a presence in their lives, according to a poll earlier this month by Rasmussen Reports. Over half of Americans (54%) believe that the federal government is a threat to individual liberties rather than a protector, according to an April poll by the same polling firm.

What would have happened without federal intervention at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, back in September 1957? Then, black students tried to attend this all-white school. The state’s governor called in the Arkansas National Guard—to cordon off the school and prevent the black students from entering. Only after President Eisenhower dispatched federal troops (including some from the 101st Airborne Division) could the students attend Central High. It was one of the first federally ordered integration acts.

Fast forward more than a half-century. Local control is a mantra in American society, but the events in Ferguson demonstrate what that can actually mean. The family of Michael Brown employed a New York coroner to examine the body, mistrusting local authorities to do a proper job. And, President Obama has dispatched his Attorney General and the Justice Department to conduct its own investigation.

According to the White House blog: “The Justice Department has opened an independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown. They are on the ground and, along with the FBI, they are devoting substantial resources to that investigation. The Attorney General himself will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation, and he will receive an update from them on their progress. He will also be meeting with other leaders in the community whose support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson.”

So, do we need the federal government after all to make sure the right things are done?
Will it take concerted federal intervention to create a post-racial society?
Would you support such a federal role?

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Categories: Uncategorized