Monday 9 August 2010

Giving Part 2 and Brussels

A rather pertinent comment on my Blog deserves wider thought. It takes me to task on my diatribe re the rich giving more!

It points out Americans have a strong culture of giving back! For example in some Unis there is a huge proportion of alumni giving.

JJ goes on to say,
"What effect does this have on philanthropy in general? Third Sector organisations - if they want a piece of the pie - have to raise their games to compete. Above all, they have to offer a far more positive experience for philanthropists. Donors rightfully expect some say over where their money goes, as well as recognition; there is a variety of different areas on offer to which one can contribute. Donors have their names on things - a bit uncouth to us, perhaps, but you can always let donors choose to name buildings/places/scholarships something else. Hank Paulson (Goldman Sachs CEO and ferocious All-Eastern offensive tackle) endowed a coaching position named not after himself, but after his own much-admired head coach.

Perhaps the Third Sector might do likewise? All you seem to be saying is that THEY - some amorphous yet ultimately malign mass of greedy bankers etc - should give us their money, because they are presumably bad people in need of having their guilt expiated by the virtuous charity sector. Why not, rather, offer philanthropists something more positive for their money? Paying tax is a burdensome duty; giving to charity should be a worthwhile and fulfilling choice.

And the day someone tries to guilt trip me into giving is the day I buy a yacht."

The fact that this is my nephew Julian commenting is interesting! Now in his final year at Keble after terms at Tubingen in Germany and at Dartmouth in the States. He is clearly going far. In his new yacht!

But this American culture of giving has its drawbacks. Much of it is focused on the arts and universities. Indeed in the States 9 out of 10 recipients of the largest donations were such institutions. Less popular causes struggle. Mental health and disability, support for marginalised communities such as migrants or asylum seekers do not share in the great American generosity.

This is a lesson we have to learn as the state shrinks here. Many charitable causes will not be able to make up the loss of grant or support from Government. This is even more so as Jeremy Hunt, our Culture Minister, ruthlessly cuts back on arts and heritage funding so ensuring more competition for scarce giving.

Ruth Sutherland, writing in The Observor, whilst applauding the example of Warren Buffett argues,

" however impeccable their motives and character, it would be folly to rely on the rich and famous to cure our social ills. High profile campaigns might crowd out less glamorous, but no less serving causes: cute kids will trump Meals on Wheels in Swindon.....many charities are small local concerns, liable to be overlooked by your average tycoon. "

And she concludes,

" So by all means let's praise Buffett and his billionaires. But let's not pretend charity can make up for poor business ethics or that it is a substitute for a fairer and more equal society."
In this country nearly half of the income of our sector comes from grants and contracts for service delivery. It is that which is currently under threat.
The American example has sparked a lot of media debate. That is to the good. Will it spark more giving in the UK. The current DEC appeal for Pakistan will show if that is the case.

And I am also going far. On a train to Taunton. I'm having a research week and spending it in the Library of the Charity Commission. They have a splendid collection of books on the history of charity. I'm fascinated by our country's long and proud charity tradition and want to speak on this in my decade lecture in September.

Great news on the Euclid front. Euclid Network has secured the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Vice President of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton, to deliver the keynote speech at its Annual General Meeting on September 14 in Brussels.

Cathy Ashton will be presenting her ideas for the first time on how civil society can be active in European foreign policy.

‘This is a great opportunity for our members. I remember a special evening we had in Brussels three years ago at a previous AGM, when we had Peter Mandleson speaking at a dinner with members.

The AGM will take place at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels on 14 September. It will be open to all ACEVO and Euclid members. Contact for details.


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