I’m on the board of two smallish non-profit arts organizations, and a regular financial supporter of several others. I’ve noticed a trend in fundraising appeals- in letters that go out to previous funders, the dollar amount they contributed in previous years is named, with a request for a specific increase in the current campaign. (“Thank you for your generous contribution of $100 in 2011. Would you consider a gift of $125 in 2012?”)
Possibly Pissy, But Really Very Generous At Heart
When Warren Buffett challenged Mitch McConnell to help him pay down the deficit, McConnell paid him no never-mind—but a teenage girl in Northbrook, IL heard and responded, sending $300 to the Feds and asking Buffett to do the same. This is an adorable story, and the video makes it more adorable still.
But let’s not let this young woman’s sense of civic duty and remarkable act of civic participation distract from the real point of the Buffett challenge, which is that without increased taxation of the wealthy, jerks like Mitch McConnell will free-ride on public-spirited souls like Katie Murphy.
I am distressed by the sight of poverty; I am benefited by its alleviation; but I am benefited equally whether I or someone else pays for its alleviation; the benefits of other people’s charity therefore partly accrue to me. To put it differently, we might all of us be willing to contribute to the relief of poverty, provided everyone else did. We might not be willing to contribute the same amount without such assurance.
Therefore, this wild-eyed radical continues, the government must step in. If poverty is to be alleviated, everyone must be taxed so that no one gets a free ride to the benefits of poverty eradication.
How appalling! How socialistic! Of course, what else could one expect from an ivory-tower academic complete with Nobel prize?
When the man said “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch,” he meant it.
H/t Allen R. Sanderson.
Here’s a chronic story (h/t The Nonprofit Quarterly), about how the United States is the most generous nation on earth. This annual survey measures how often people donate money to charity, how often they volunteer and how often they help strangers in need—the distinction between #1 and #3 being a little vague.
While the Nonprofiteer salutes all the donors among us, she feels constrained to point out that the United States leaves to private charity a whole range of activities provided elsewhere by the government. Are the citizens of France really less giving, or are they just willing to give free public higher education through their taxes rather than depend on the kindness of strangers? Are the Swedes, who provide paid parenthood leave while Americans think they’re generous to provide unpaid leave, really stingier than we are? And do the English really turn their backs on the needy, or do they instead provide health care for everyone?
The Nonprofiteer is proud to be an American, but she prefers to be proud of the things we really do well rather than the things we do to compensate for what we do poorly, namely, supply adequate social services to all our citizens.