It’s not the money, stupid

Popes, catholics, bears and woods all came to mind when reading a recent article in the Wealth Bulletin. Apparently,  a new survey finds that a quarter of people defined as Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW, translation: the super-duper rich) say donating to charity is not key for them. According to the author of this survey, “They prefer either to invest their money or spend it on luxuries for themselves and family, but giving it to others less advantaged than themselves is not an important part of their lives.”

The notion that the rich automatically give, and that the poor can’t afford to, is frustratingly widespread and utterly wrong. Anyone who has tried to raise funds knows that the capacity to give is not the same thing at all as the desire to give. Money is a necessary, but not a sufficient, factor behind philanthropic decisions.

People don’t make donations just because they can afford to. If that were true then every rich person would be a philanthropist, and every fundraiser who met a rich person would walk away with a big cheque. And if there were a direct, causal link between money and donating then people on low incomes would not be so generous, yet we know that the poorest 10% actually give away more as a percentage of their income than do the richest 10%.

The UHNW people in this survey presumably know that they have money to spare, but a quarter of them do not yet know why philanthropy would be a good use of their money, how their donations would make a difference, and that they might even get a bigger kick out of helping others more than purchasing further luxuries for themselves and their loved ones.

So let’s stop being surprised that wallets don’t open automatically, and remember that people give because:

  • they think the cause is important
  • they feel good about supporting a particular charity
  • they trust the leaders of the charities they support
  • they are passionate about making something happen
  • they want to be part of a charity they admire
  • they enjoy meeting other donors
  • they couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t

So it’s not really about how much money you have or don’t have. Whether rich, poor or even UHNW, it’s about knowing what needs exist, being asked properly to help, believing the donation can make a difference and being able to enhance our own lives at the same time as trying to improve the lot of others.

Leave a Reply