Rich Or Poor: Who Gives The Most?

firoz patel charity

In 2015, Americans gave more than $373 billion to 1.5 million public charities, and of this amount, 71 percent had come from individual donors making direct gifts.

Who are the donors?

The Atlantic reports that in 2011, the wealthiest Americans who earn at the top 20% contributed 1.3 percent of their income, while those at the bottom 20 percent contributed 3.2 percent of their income. So it’s the poor people who give the most—not in amount, but in relation to their earnings.

The wealthy tend to support colleges and universities, arts organizations and museums, while the poor donate to religious organizations and social service charities., And the rich people who lived in rich neighborhoods gave less than the wealthy who lived in socioeconomically diverse settings. These findings support the notion that those who are closest to the problems and the people who need to be served are most empathic and motivated to donate – if not money, their time and energies. It is this fact that throws light on a philanthropic organization that is having impact in communities and countries around the world.

The Pollination Project (TPP) is an organization that awards seed money of $1000 to individuals and groups who have an idea or dream of meeting a need in those around them or of developing something they value and want to support and/or preserve. From January 1, 2013 on, TPP has awarded $1000 each day of the 365 days in a year.

The TPP fund recipients provide a rich, eye-opening pool of narrations on how that small amount catapulted them into projects, several who have since formed organizations that are winning awards from larger funding entities. There is an amazing variety of projects ranging from community development and environmental protection, to education, arts, music, dance, to protection of endangered animals, to children and adults with special needs. Poverty is alleviated, food provided, health improved, at risk youth saved, the indigenous empowered through income generation projects and prisoners assisted with education.

A number of awardees report that the grant had a life-changing effect in their lives. Grant receivers mention most often that they were empowered and motivated by the grant — that this organization believed in them and thought their ideas worthwhile. The grant and publicity through the Huffington Post TPP blog provided legitimacy and international publicity, and brought local and national support.

TPP does more than give out $1000 grants. It guides the applicant through the application process, which is to think through, organize and explain the project. Each application gets a personal touch and feedback, whether funded or not. The encouragement and support by TPP staff magnifies the effect of the monetary support it provides. As one recipient said, “It is not easy to take a creative idea and grow it into a sustainable organization. When a group like the Pollination Project believes in your vision, it is like fuel to the soul!” Other statements by recipients: “You have helped restore my faith that there are really systems of support that really work to help everyday people, who want to make extraordinary change!” “…it helped restore my hope and faith in what I am doing. It has provided me with the drive and fortitude to carry on at a time when I felt like all was lost.” ” You have made a vision a reality.”

TPP was founded by Ariel Nessel, a real estate developer, and his sister in law, Stephanie Klempner. They are joined by other Board members and staff, each of whom bring a unique background and experience, but all of whom share a passion for what they are doing. It is Ariel’s belief that “We don’t need more Mahatma Gandhi’s and Martin Luther Kings in the world. What we need is individuals–large amounts of people who are making small changes in and around their communities. I’ve seen that …individuals have that capability.”

Philanthropy by Entrepreneurs

Many entrepreneurs are focused on generating revenue to make a profit. When running your own business, this is the ultimate goal to stay afloat. However, those that do make a profit have a decision about where to spend that money they make. Some entrepreneurs that run profitable organizations have made a practice of donating a large sum of the profit made by their companies. They operate on the platform of making money to support those who need help. Below are some such individuals.

Beth Doane

A self-branded social entrepreneur, this woman supports a number of causes. She is a partner of the all female communications firm, Main & Rose, which builds brands for clients. This company has a pro bono program in which their team works to promote one cause a year. They will do anything from social media management, to event planning, to web design for free. Doane also is the owner of a custom apparel line, which furthers her social entrepreneurship by helping to send children to school, and to plant trees in endangered forests, around the world.

Trina Spear and Heather Hasson

These two women are the founder of the company Figs, which sells high performance scrubs for doctors and nurses. They began the company with the realization that medical wear is outdated and uncomfortable, and those working to save lives all day should be wearing the most comfortable clothing possible. Spear and Hasson set up the Threads for Threads initiative through their company which, for every pair purchased, donates one pair of scrubs to a healthcare provider who cannot afford his or her own. They have given away hundreds of thousands of pairs of scrubs, and hope their donations are cutting down on hospital-acquired infections.

Sarah Kaler

Sarah Kaler is the philanthropic founder of the organization SoulPowered, a company focused on leadership coaching and empowering women to become CEOs. She is very active in philanthropy in Africa. Kaler both invests in African charities, and has created a mentorship program for the Africa Yoga Project, to teach people to be yoga instructors, and how to financially sustain a yoga business.

Dave Heath

This entrepreneurial athlete is the founder and CEO of Bombas, a company that manufactures socks for intense athletic performance. He created the company to assist active people in performing better during their workouts, while also helping people in need. He realized that homeless shelters are requesting socks more than any other item and decided that, for every pair bought, a pair would be sent to someone who needs it. Every employee, on their first day, is required to go hand out socks to, and have conversations with, people living on the streets.

For more inspiring entrepreneurial philanthropists, check out Fox News.

A Charity Problem

Charity Detox

Charitable organizations are necessary in society, as are the people that help fund them. There is no shortage of companies built to improve concerning issues in the world. One such issue is the overwhelming amount of people all over the world living in poverty. To combat this, there exist several charities geared toward helping people in such situations, providing things like food and clothing. Churches, for example, usually have feeding programs for the less fortunate. However, a recently published book suggests that these types of charities, the ones that raise money to dispense continuous handouts, are actually detrimental to society as a whole. Robert Lupton in Charity Detox argues that many charity programs are perpetuating the cycle of poverty by creating a dependency, and something needs to change.

This sounds preposterous at first. Charity programs can mean the difference between having dinner and going to bed hungry for many individuals and families. Lupton does not contest this, however, he simply believes society as a whole throws money at the poverty issue without caring about the results. Donors have a tendency to put their money into these programs, but what people living in poverty really need, Lupton says, are jobs and communities. This would require putting money toward programs such as interview training, and creating safer neighborhoods for communities to thrive.

In order to accomplish such a daunting task, Lupton writes that three main aspects of charitable organizations need to be drawn into the light. Namely, charities need to see their giving as investments and monitor their returns, they must focus on neighborhood rebuilding, and all of the people that each organization is helping must be involved in every step of the process.

Focusing on charitable giving as an investment seems cold, but Lupton has a point. Organizations that are able to make a profit from their charitable giving are more sustainable, and also have the ability to provide those living in poverty with stable jobs. This will help more individuals and families out of poverty, rather than just provide a short-term solution. Additionally, rebuilding neighborhoods is a no-brainer. Any mixed-income neighborhood is safer and helps breed more social interaction. Finally, making those living in poverty decision-makers in the revival of their neighborhoods will foster a further sense of trust and community.

When initially described, Charity Detox seems rather heartless. However, reading this book will be beneficial to anyone looking to beat poverty rather than just put bandaids on it. Lupton makes some very good points, and I think we can all learn from reading his thoughts.

Healthy Living Through Altruism

It is no secret that volunteering is good for your health, but, now, it is official: studies have shown that philanthropic efforts boost cardiovascular health. In fact, many health professionals are thinking about ‘prescribing’ it along with other preventative health measures, such as eating healthily and exercising regularly. Eric Kim, a research fellow at Harvard School of Public Health, has focused his work on philanthropic efforts and their effects on health.

Kim was inspired by results of past studies, which have shown that volunteering is linked to lower weight and lower levels of depression. He hypothesized that these results were due to to a sense of purpose in those who volunteered. When people feel like their lives extend beyond simply just living on a day-to-day basis, they tend to take better care of themselves. Kim decided to do his own research to figure out how the results of past studies could be used in the medical world.

In his work, Kim and a colleague tracked a large number of Americans over middle age, a portion of whom volunteered on a regular basis. After a couple of years, it was evident that the individuals who volunteered made time to take better care of themselves than the ones who did not. They were more likely to go to the doctor for regular checkups, for example, and spent less time in the hospital overall.

This aligns perfectly with the popular idea that one cannot take care of others if he or she does not take care of the self first. Volunteers, Kim has found, want to be able to take care of others, so it makes sense that they are more likely to take care of themselves. This decreases healthcare costs for individuals without costing the healthcare industry more money.

Overall, volunteering is good for heart health. That cannot be contested. However, it turns out that is not the entire story. Kim found that health is only truly improved if one volunteers for the right reasons. A person cannot volunteer, say, to escape from problems, or solely to improve his or her own health. Rather, there has to be altruism involved, or else it is not clear if health will be affected at all.

Philanthropic effort is not difficult, but altruism, selfless concern for others, involves some work. If such philanthropy was prescribed along with medication for cardiovascular issues, and these altruistic values instilled early in life, the healthcare industry could be turned around completely.

To read more about Kim’s work and findings, check out this article in The Atlantic.

Creating a Corporate Culture of Caring

Firoz Patel Corporate GivingIt’s no secret that new and old companies alike are starting to invest in opportunities that allow the companies and their employees to give back or help charitable causes. The numbers don’t lie, giving back is important to professionals – particularly to younger members of the workforce, and a common value among many.

In constructing a company’s culture, knowledge of the employees is a key point in designing and implementing a company culture that allows its employees to flourish. Knowing that philanthropy and giving back is important to the employees is a leg up for a company’s culture architects, but in truth this information is only half  of the battle.

Companies large and small can struggle with integrating this information into tangible manifestations within the organization. However there are some steps to keep in mind when creating a culture of caring (and giving) within the context of a company.

Start Early

While this does not apply if we are talking about an established business, if your company is in the process of development, make sure to incorporate this into the central tenets of your company’s mission statement. Whether this means devoting a certain amount of the company’s equity to a charitable cause, or establishing clearly defined programming and opportunities around a philanthropic purpose, incorporate this into the company’s mission ASAP. This means that employees will understand philanthropy as a core value of the company whether it’s the first hire or the hundredth.

Don’t Just Talk the Talk

While it’s a great idea to incorporate this sort of language and focus into the company’s mission statement and core values, it’s more important to show this sort of attitude. It’s great to have this written down somewhere, but the only thing that will give these words meaning is the corresponding action.

Care to Scale:

Be realistic about what resources your company is able to allocate to a charitable cause. Don’t overpromise, only to find yourself and your employees unable to deliver on this promise. Whether this is a dollar amount, or the manpower delivered by your team, make sure that your team is able to follow through. This means that you need to take stock from the beginning. Set charitable goals that are reasonable within the framework of your company. Furthermore, if possible, make sure that you are choosing a cause that works with the mission, focus or skills of your company and its talented employees. It’s always a great idea to share what your company is great at, with those who can truly benefit from that expertise.

While there are more ways to integrate giving into the core of a company, the most important thing is to take a step back and evaluate where your company is, where you want it to go and how integrating charity as a core value can be an asset to both the recipients of the charity and to the company itself.