4 Myths About Charitable Giving

In thinking about becoming the boss of your money, the subject of charitable giving just doesn’t go away. I was reminded of an article I read in BYU’s Marriott School Magazine last year that made me look at giving in an entirely different way.

This post is the first in a series regarding charitable giving. Each of these posts will be based on the article The Privilege of Giving by Arthur C. Brooks, the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government Policy at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Myth 1: Giving Makes Us Poor

From the article:

This was the misconception that I had because I was stuck being an economist. I had a mechanistic view of life, but life is not mechanistic. Life is more perfect than that. Giving doesn’t make us poor; giving makes us richer.

How is it possible that when we give money (or time) away we become richer? We explore that in more detail in a post devoted specifically to that topic, but it may have to do with how our own psychology is changed, and also how the psychology of the recipient is changed, when we give. The return on investment of charitable donations is truly astounding.

Myth 2: People Are Naturally Selfish

The author makes the great point that when we’re truly our natural self — our happiest most “in tune” self — we’re giving and doing so generously.

…when we are really acting as if we were made in God’s image, we’re not selfish. We have evidence that this is our most natural selves because this is when our brains are in tune.

The author is writing from a Christian perspective, but the lesson remains were you to adapt it to many different religious philosophies. When you are at your best, in sync with life, you’re a generous person.

Myth 3: Giving is a Luxury

We’ll explore reasons why in later posts, but it turns out that giving is truly a necessity if you want to lead a healthier (literally), happier, more productive life. As a people we need to give! Dr. Brooks makes the obvious point that the working poor give a higher percentage of their income than any other class. They obviously don’t subscribe to the idea that giving is a luxury!

Myth 4: A Nation Cannot Afford to Give

You’ll hear at times that the government failed in this or that aspect of governing when private charities are forced to step up and fill the apparent gaps. What would the likely outcome be if the government were able to take away our “need” to give charitably?

If we crowd out charitable giving by paying for everything through the state, we’re going to pay the price. My data will tell you that we’re going to be unhappier, unhealthier, and poorer as a country unless we take responsibility.

Remember that last bit — we’ll be unhappier, unhealthier, and poorer if we don’t give. We’re going to explore those various aspects of charitable giving in more detail later, but those are at the crux of charitable giving. It seems that it truly is one of the greatest investments you can make.