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Bullied into Philanthropy

The SF Chronicle offered this piece as a brief on billionaires who have not signed the Giving Pledge. The Pledge has received press of every variety: opinion pieces, debates, challenges, praise – you name it. To add to the list, the Chronicle article seems to… well.. Bully. Not outright, of course. Yet, publicly listing those who have not signed, regardless of their other philanthropic activity (which, to the article’s credit, is discussed) creates a stigma, a sort of social or peer pressure. “Bill Gates has done it, why aren’t you?” “Warren Buffet has given this much! Why haven’t  you?”

Those of lesser means may perhaps feel justified believing those with great financial means should be givers, and generous ones at that. It is easily argued that we should all give. …Ok. It is hard to disagree. However, from that perspective all charitable giving, regardless of intent, is good giving. And charitable giving is not necessarily philanthropy.

IS charitable giving good by its nature and not by its intent? Is corporate responsiblity done for PR as good as authentic and genuine corporate stewardship of the environment or community? Can and should we pressure in order to get others to give?

Upon inspection, peer-pressured giving does not seem in alignment with the passion and compassion that is the core of philanthropy. Giving, of time or resources, is deeply personal. For some, it is a rather spiritual experience of giving part of one’s self to bond with another. To give without intent or purpose takes the soul out of the gift and reduces it to a transaction. If philanthropy became a one-time, “here you go” exchange, the world would not be better for it.

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Filed under: Giving, Philanthropy

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