Giving for all

11 August 2010 | By Cause4 staff

Recently much has been written about high level donors. Fuelled by stories of ‘The Giving Pledge’, more modest levels of giving have been overlooked. However, ignoring smaller donors, Cause4 suggests, is an oversight. Latest figures from the Disaster and Emergencies Committee Pakistan Floods Appeal confirm that over £6m has been raised. Most of this has come from modest individual donations. Brendan Gormley, Chief Executive of the DEC points out: ‘As always the British public have shown themselves to be extremely generous.’ It’s a not insubstantial sum, but relative to the billions pledged by Warren Buffett and company, it might seem small beer. But that would be to miss the point.

Eli Shaharabany, expert global fundraiser, insists that ‘we do not have to be super rich to participate in philanthropy’. Stephanie Risa Stein at Philanthropic Capital Advisors goes further, asking charities to ‘think micro, not macro - and embrace the small donations. Even what may seem like a minimal gift to one person may be a significant percentage of income for someone else.’

Of course it is the large donations – and not the widow’s mite - that help to make things happen quickly and significantly. Every sensible charity should ensure that fundraising strategies are built around pursuit of more substantial donations. But here’s the point. We need to create a culture of giving in which everyone is able to participate. Philanthropy should not be the preserve of the uber rich – even though the uber rich can achieve so much more through their generosity. We can only give according to our means but we will only give if somehow the instinct to give has been developed.

It is in allowing everyone to give, and in encouraging everyone to give, that a stronger philanthropic culture can be created. All philanthropic journeys, we assume, begin with a small initial step. If the instinct to give according to means is developed, we will see extensive small-scale giving complemented by an increase in those substantial gifts that really make things happen. ‘Make a pact with the people in your life to donate to a worthy organisation and make giving a tradition among your circle of friends, relatives and colleagues.’ So says Stephanie Risa Stein. And how could we disagree?

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