Tim’s Third Question

Driving from Indianapolis to Chicago ten days ago I spent some time on the phone (hands-free, of course) with my friend Tim, who is the executive director of a major foundation.

We talked about planned giving, and then the possible effect of the tax law changes on charitable giving (see The Weekend Briefing for June 24).


“Rob, can I ask one last question?”


“Of all the people on our planet right now, what percentage do you think are charitable?”


I told Tim it was a brilliant question.

He didn’t ask “how many people in our world give to charity” because he knew many millions of people never have the option to do so.

Instead his question suggested, “how many people in our world today have it in their hearts to help their fellow man, in whatever way is available to them?”


I thought about it for a moment and I told Tim, “I think about 75%.”

The first thought that came to mind was the man or woman in Africa for whom daily survival is an achievement.  How many women in Mali, back after the two-hour trek to fill their water jugs, will share their water with the old person in the village who cannot walk?

That person is every bit the philanthropist as Bill and Melinda Gates.

What I’ve seen, over 41 years in fundraising, is there are people in our world who just never think about giving.  Their absence of charity isn’t so much a deliberate decision to say, “NO, I don’t want to give and I won’t give.”

The concept just never occurs to them.  It’s not “no” to the fundraiser, it’s just not a part of who they are.

An unwillingness to consider the idea of helping someone other than themselves?  Probably.  Where does that come from?

Who knows.  Their upbringing.  Their family culture, perhaps.

As much as the concept, the responsibility to be charitable is deep within the Jewish faith and culture I have to believe that somehow, with some other people in our world, the opposite is the case.

Charity is in most peoples’ DNA but sadly, not in others.

Can that change in a person?  Yes.  I’ve seen it change, but it’s rare.

Our responsibility to our organization is to extend the best invitation we can.  If we see that our invitation isn’t received, for whatever reason, and  likely isn’t going to be received, we need to move on to the 75%.

Have a good day, my friends.

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