Why treating philanthropists like s#!t is hurting our society.

From bad to worse

When I first saw the pictures of the flames engulfing Notre-Dame, I thought to myself, “That’s terrible.” But now, that the fire has been extinguished, I’m feeling like something else is even worse.

In the aftermath of the destruction, people from all walks of life have been making comments about the philanthropists stepping forward to repair and restore the 856-year-old cathedral in Paris. Many of those comments have been negative.

This is not unusual. 

In fact, back in 2016 the Stanford Social Innovation Review supplied a list of 12 common criticisms of philanthropists. Many have been echoed in the aftermath of the Notre-Dame blaze.

1. Charitable aid should focus on the poor; too much giving today goes to other causes!

2. Charity is an artifact no longer necessary in a modern welfare state!

3. Charitable donations are just a drop in the bucket!

4. There are too many amateur efforts in philanthropy!

5. Philanthropic aid lacks standardization! It’s a chaotic patchwork!

6. Charity may work for individuals, but what we really need are solutions that benefit entire groups!

7. Philanthropy is undemocratic!

8. Only government can lead important social change in a fair way!

9. Some donors are mean, vainly seek their name on things, or take part in charity for all the wrong reasons!

10. Philanthropy distracts people who ought to focus on business!

11. Philanthropy encourages collective thinking, collective responsibility, and collective action—ultimately leading to more government!

12. Donating money is sometimes too much about the giver’s needs!

How soon they forget.

Philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates together have pledged more than $2 billion to help defeat malaria. They’re also working to end ebola and polio. But that surely isn’t all they’re doing. So, since it’s such a tremendous challenge to give so much money away, they hired 2,000 people to help them do it responsibly.

Or, how about John Rockefeller? In today’s dollars, his wealth equalled about 3 times that of Bill Gates. He funded scientific research that helped create vaccines for meningitis and yellow fever, he created schools of public health at Johns Hopkins and Harvard, and he promoted education by essentially creating the University of Chicago from scratch. Coincidentally, his most trusted philanthropic advisor was named Gates (Frederick Gates).

And what about Andrew Carnegie? Most people don’t know that he built more than 2,000 public libraries and gave plenty of aid to colleges and schools. Plus he also funded the Hague (which houses the World Court in the Netherlands). In fact, he gave away about 90% of his fortune.

Of course there are countless others. You know them. You talk to them every day.

Yet our society treats them like s#!t.

Doing so doesn’t solve anything. In fact, it hurts our society terribly. So, why on earth do so many people treat philanthropists so poorly when they are willing to give their money and time to others for very little in return?

It’s no wonder the number of people giving to charity keeps declining anywhere from 2.5% – 5% each year!

Thank a donor.

Look, the biggest reason why people give is to feel good. It’s rare that they are shown enough appreciation — truly heartfelt appreciation.

So, today, why not make sure your supporters (especially the ones digging the deepest and giving the most) get shown the appreciation they deserve? Because, right now, they are watching the news and they’re seeing the backlash their comrades are enduring. Don’t let them face that alone. Give ’em a call or write ’em a note. Otherwise, they’ll make themselves part of the 2.5% – 5% and all of us will be worse off.



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