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Welcome to my blog and website, I hope you find your visit interesting.

Of all the teachings we receive this one is the most important:
Nothing belongs to you -
of what there is,
of what you take,
you must share.


Giving from the heart? or...

15 December 2015

Why do people give to charities?

According to "Social Psychology – Helping Behavior SparkNotes Psychology Guide Series" there are two theories about why people give to charities - "public benefit" and "private benefit". In the "public benefit" theory people give out of altruistic reasons - to help others and not expect anything in return. In the "private benefit" theory people give in order to receive some benefit back to themselves. Such benefits could be tax benefits, awards, public acclamation, etc. This "private benefit" giving is the most common in the USA. People give in order to get. People give and they want everyone else to know what great thing they have done.

But without this selfish "public benefit" giving there would be much less giving in general. People use the personal benefits gained by giving as their motivation to give, and without that motivation most people would rather "opt out" of giving altogether.

There are other benefits gained by giving, non-tangible benefits. In "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving,” J. Andreoni, Economic Journal 100:464–77, Andreoni found that people experienced a "warm glow" after giving or donating to a cause they believe in. In "Surprising health benefits of giving, Orly Avitzur, Consumer Reports Magazine, December 2011" we find that there are physical and mental health benefits as well. These include reduced stress and depression, better immune system functioning, and a greater sense of life satisfaction.

So, while this "public benefit" giving is not altruistic, it is the primary form of giving. The researchers took the study further and discovered that the more a person "thinks" about giving the less they will give. In "Why We Give To Charity, Leon Neyfakh, The Boston Globe, December 4, 2011", they found that thinking in detail about how we “should” give, about how much good our giving will really do, about which charity/cause is really the best, kills the emotional response that led to the impulse to help at all. When we try to be "smart" givers, we take our heart out of the giving process ("The Science of Giving: Experimental Approaches to the Study of Charity (The Society for Judgment and Decision Making Series),” D. Oppenheimer, C.Y. Olivola eds., Psychology Press (2010)").

Obviously not everyone who gives to charities is selfish. Giving and helping others is of extreme value to all people, in general. Let's try not to let our heads, our critical thinking, get in the way of our giving and helping. Similar to faith and hope, giving is an act of the heart.

Obviously we should try to be smart about giving, but don't get hung up on the 'hows' and 'whys' of giving, but go with your first instincts, your first feelings, your first emotional responses. Try to push aside the negative thoughts about giving. Giving is more like a prayer than a calculation - trust that you are doing the right thing and that you are making the best decision possible.

There are many, possibly countless, charitable foundations and organizations all over the world, where a person can donate their money and get a tax refund by doing so. As it is with most people, the most important part is the tax deductible bit. These foundations and organizations are usually doing something good and worthwhile, and much of the money you donate may actually get used for something that will directly help the people at the other end. You don't know how much, but some of it will trickle down to the people who need the help.

There are charities that help with building homes and other buildings, and that is a good things. There are some that help with food and getting a group of people farming so they can start supporting themselves. And that is good. And there are many other ways of helping people who are less fortunate than ourselves. You can give your hard earned money to any of these organizations and know that you will be getting your money back, or at least a percentage of it, from your government. Not exactly a pure motive for giving, but that is the thinking of most people. "I'll be glad to give to your cause, but are you a 501c? No? Sorry, there are plenty of others I can give to."

There are thousands of people all over the world doing good works, helping people selflessly, day in and day out, and never receive a penny from anyone, anywhere in support. Why? Because that donation would not be tax deductible. For example, there are many people who teach English to non-English speaking people. That is what I do. And I have actually been asked "Why?" As if it is not important for others to learn the most common language in the business world, and the most common language in the tourist/travelling world, and the second most common language of all (Chinese is the most common, due to the sheer number of Chinese people).

So what do people gain by learning English? Look at this story: Dad and Mon work low paying jobs and are barely able to provide for their family, living in a run-down, dilapidated "house". Their family has been like this for generations, and will continue for generations to come. Why? Because the kids will continue in the footsteps of the parents, working low-paying jobs, barely able to live from paycheck to paycheck. This is nothing uncommon, and it happens in every country of the world, including the richest country in the world, the USA. But what opportunities do people in developing nations, and 3rd world nations, have to get out of that rut? They can't afford an extended education; many of the kids, one of my own students in fact, are taken out of school at a very young age, and put to work to help the family just to pay monthly bills. Yes, one of my students, and his brothers, all have no more than a 3rd grade education. Their parents took them out of school so the kids could work in the fields, on a farm, to help the family. True story. Now he is learning English because he recognizes the importance of it to help him in his work. And I am teaching his children because he realizes that they must know English to get a good paying job when they enter the job market. It's not easy to pay for the lessons, but it is important, and he is well aware of how this will change the lives of everyone in his family.

So if Dad learns English he can get a better paying job, which means he can better provide for his family. If Dad learns English then others in the family will also, his wife, their children. And this change is not temporary. It lasts a lifetime. It won't get blown down in a hurricane, or washed away in a flood. It can raise a family out of poverty within a few years and they will continue to improve their lives the rest of their lives.

The people who have money have no problem paying for English lessons, because they have good paying jobs. The people who need the lessons the most are the ones who cannot afford the English schools, because the monthly cost is almost half the monthly minimum wage (here in Colombia). But who would benefit the most from learning English? The wealthy who can pay and already have a high income? Or the poor who cannot pay and earn the minimum wage or bare more than it?

My desire is to teach the poor, get them speaking English, so they can get a better job, and soon get themselves up out of the minimum wage rut. The problem is this: For me to teach a person, a private student, at their home or in a mall, or wherever they want the lessons, requires a certain amount of money for me to actually earn a living wage. And that amount of money is too much for the poorest people to afford. The rich have no problem. The rich will, of course, benefit by learning English, but, the poor will benefit even more. So my students are all middle class or higher, people who are learning English to improve their jobs. And that is good for them. But what I really want to do is teach the poorest people, the ones who can benefit the most by getting better paying jobs. I can't do that and actually live, buy food and pay the bills.

I am not a foundation or a charity organization, I am just one man working on my own, helping people improve their lives and the lives of their families. On this website there are a couple ways of donating money, if you are not concerned more about the tax write-offs. Ideally, what I would like to see is enough to open an English school for the poor. It would be in the poor neighborhood, and the fee would be lower than imaginable, if not even free for certain people. My idea is simple - if a student earns the minimum wage, or a small percentage above it, they would get into the school at an unbelievably low fee. Not enough for me to live on, not enough to pay the rent of the building, but enough for the students to have some "ownership" in the classes, some personal investment. If a person earns more than the set percentage above the minimum wage then they would not be allowed to take classes, or they would have to pay a higher fee. And anyone earning double the minimum wage would simply not be allowed to take classes, as there are plenty of other English schools they can afford.

Obviously I have no money to make such a dream come true, so that would have to come from donations, from people who don't give a rip about tax deductions. I can't make any promises about ROI and would just say you are doing it from you heart, to help people and families who really need help.

Oh, by the way, I've added more pictures to the Barranquilla photo album.

Till next time - Chao!

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