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Why Do You Give What You Give?
What You Give? Charitable philosophies cross socioeconomic, political, and property lines
People give to charity for a variety of reasons. I give because I'm selfish. Sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true. You see, when I give to a charity I feel good about myself. Sure, the person or organization receiving my gift benefits, but I would not do it without receiving some reward. Mine is primarily that it makes me feel good about me. Some donate because of the cause, others to leave a legacy, and still others for tax benefits. Whatever the motivation for those who are philanthropic, we all do so because of some personal reward. I never question why people are charitable. I am just thankful that so many are.
So who gives to charity? You might be interested to know that although the wealthy are the most generous in gross dollars, the middle class gives a much higher percentage. A 2008 study showed that households earning $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared to an average of 4.2 percent for households earning $100,000 or more.
However, the one-percenters are different. Wealthy people who live in neighborhoods with other wealthy people give a smaller share of their income to charity than wealthy people who live in more economically diverse communities. When people making more than $200,000 a year account for more than 40 percent of the taxpayers in a ZIP code, the wealthy residents only give an average of 2.8 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared to an average of 4.2 percent for all taxpayers earning $200,000 or more.
I don't know if this is a coincidence, but red states are more generous than blue states. In the last Presidential election, the eight states that gave the highest percentage of income to charity voted for John McCain, while the seven lowest-ranking states supported Barack Obama.
This brings me to maybe the biggest charitable donor and President Obama supporter around – Warren Buffett. When asked about why he chose to give much of his fortune to Bill Gates' foundation, Buffett said, "What can be more logical, in whatever you want done, than finding someone better equipped than you are to do it? Who wouldn't select Tiger Woods to take his place in a high-stakes golf game? That's how I feel about this decision about my money."
I find it quite ironic that a man who has made billions in the private sector through capitalism would advocate for government to take a larger share of everyone's income, while at the same time leave his own wealth to a charity whose main goals are to eliminate poverty, improve education and fight for health concerns. Isn't that what the government programs he advocates for are expected to do? Buffett, like most generous Americans, realizes that charities – not the government – are better at delivering these needed services and have a much higher success rate of elevating people instead of creating a permanent state of dependence. I encourage all of us to give more to causes that make positive, meaningful changes for others. Not only will the recipients be uplifted, you will be too!
Your charitable giving can be made more effective and lasting through planned giving. We have experience and expertise in philanthropy – over the years we and our clients have given tens of millions of dollars to charities. Not only can you leave a legacy, you can also create a better world for all to live in.