The punch line: are women/married people/religious people more generous?
I had a goal in mind to celebrate my big 3-0…..getting 30 people in 30 days to toss in enough money to buy a cow, supporting Heifer International.The philosophy behind this organization is to bring sustenance and resources into a community, educate them and then require the recipient of the animal to give offspring to neighboors in need. While explaining my campaign to people, their faces lit up, conversations turned toward other acts of generosity, and all in all, people were surprisingly energetic in support.Many people I donot know well, and others I know intimately. Yet in each, positvitiy reigned. In this economy of restriction and a climate of depravity, 30 people contributed more than $650 for the effort…the price of a cow AND a goat. From $2 to more than $100, people pitched in. And honored me by praising the endeavor.It just goes to show how generous people can be, when placed in the right circumstance. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people spontaneously spout generosity. You don’t often see many people seeking out opportunities to volunteer these days to…well in any area: organized clubs (like Habitat for Humanity) at work (to serve on a committee not attached to their job duties…like a recyling club) or in our nieghboorhoods (when is the last time you knocked on your neighboors door and volunteered to walk his dog?). Our lack of charitble giving has been griped about in other places, noting that we Americans only give a measly 2% away to charity and that our motivations are primarily for tax breaks..and that they tend to be organizations that benefit the giver directly.
This project underscores that our day to day interactions with one another can be infused with generosity. Sending a check to a charity is no longer the ultimate measure of generosity. Our generation is distrustful of big charities, and for good reasons. It is the word of mouth, one on one campaign, that inspires people to give. But you can’t just expect people to knock on your door one day and ask if they can give you a hand. I think we need to cultivate giving in each other by discussing this issues more…and taking a risk by asking each other: can you support me?
Which doesn’t mean you have to be 100% behind the cause. I am not 100% behind Thin Mints (not my cup of tea) but every year, I somehow end up with a few boxes of diabetic shockers from those badge-grabbing tweens.
Women are said to be more generous (donate twice as much, volunteer more) People of faith are more generous (Utah volunteers the most, and Americans who weekly attend a house of worship are 25 percentage points more likely to give than people who go to church rarely or never . ) Singles are said to donate and volunteer less. Those most likely to be in helping professions are married, Christian women.
But I think the way we measure generosity may be a bit out of date. If you dig deeper, however, the way single men may give is often unrecognized. I know a lot of guys willing to pick up the bill with friends, or drive me home from the airport.
But perhaps, as one colleague asserted, my interest in volunteering and charity is “an enigma for a single person…you are not normal.”
How are you generous? What do you think?