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posted this in Cambodia, Children's Home, Insights on Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why do people give to charity?

I was in Taiwan having a holiday with my family last month. While visiting a busy night market in Taipei, we saw a beggar with no arms bowing repeatedly to the people who passed by. He has a little bowl with a few coins placed in front of him. My daughter was moved to stop and dig into her wallet to give some money to this poor man who has no arms.

I could understand why my daughter stopped to drop a few dollars into the empty bowl. I think she felt sorry for the poor beggar.

I could understand how she felt because I also felt sorry for this man. Here is a busy market with so many people enjoying themselves. They enjoy the shopping and the good food. But what does this poor beggar have? He does not even have any arms? How does he earn a living? How does he take care of himself? I felt sad to see him like this.

That’s right, we feel sorry and we give something to do what we could to alleviate someone’s suffering or plight.

When the Sichuan earthquake struck China in 2008, hundred of millions of dollars poured into this province to help the poor survivals who had lost everything. Many people were moved to donate money just like the present Haiti earthquake which killed over 200,000 people.

We often give to situation like this because we can feel and see the sorrows and sufferings encountered by others.

Dramatic events such as a catastrophic earthquake or flood moved people to give and do their part because they feel sad. They just wanted to do the little they could to alleviate the pain they saw.

But why do people give to charities? People give to different charities for different reasons.

I decided to ask around and I came to the following conclusions:

  1. Guilt – People feel guilty about a situation or plight encountered by someone else and donate money in order to sooth their own conscience.
  2. Religious reason – I think some religions like Christianity and the Islamic faith actively teaches people to give alms and help the poor. Giving is taught as a virtue in these religions. I think there are also religions that teach people to give buy redemption to get to heaven when they die.
  3. Hope- People gives to Cancer or HIV research foundations to give hope to others. They hope that their money can contribute to the advancement of medical science and help people who are suffering from cancer or HIV.
  4. Association- Some people may come from poor background and they can associate with orphans or the needy children. They give to orphanage or the needy because they know what is like to be poor.
  5. Friends or Peer influence- You may have heard of social events or dinners where the rich people are invited. These people give to charity because of the influence of friends, peers or someone with strong social standing such as a movie star or a politician.
  6. Love- I doubt I can say that there are many people who give money because of love. Perhaps an auntie may give a love gift to her nephew who is in need because of love. I also heard that there are many Christians who give to their pastors or church members because of love for these people. I think they call this ‘agape’ love.

I don’t think everyone will agree with my conclusion for the reason listed above on why people give to charity. Can you share with us your view on this matter? It will definitely help us to understand our donors better.

Goducate-Helping Poor Asians

(Photograph of 3 orphans at the Cambodia orphanage. The two boys in front are twins (Jacob and John).

I really like the way the smile when I took this photograph.

There are many children and poor Asians out there who are in need. We are hoping to raise money to help them.

Volunteers like me volunteer to help Goducate because we have visited some of these places like the orphanage in Cambodia. We are moved to do our part. We hope we can make a little difference for these poor children who have lost their parents.

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7 comments to Why do people give to charity?

  • T

    Well, sometimes the rich don\’t know what else to do with the money.

    I would add that they hadn\’t experienced the satisfaction in seeing their dollar giving the poor opportunities, in a sustainable way, for a better life.

    As you know, not many are like Bill & Melinda Gates – who once said their children will not get much of their wealth.

  • Jon

    i learnt in class about something called corporate social responsibility, where huge corporations give $$ to society. at the end of the sem, i concluded that it was just a gimmick to raise CSR.

  • Jon

    we learn in class about this something called corporate social responsibility. at the end of the semester, i concluded with the view that it is nothing more than a gimmick for raising corporate profile

  • Tituslow

    Sorry Jaime Gallentes, I really wish that you are right. Not all human beings are altruistic. We are not in an utopia. Just look at the amount of money pouring into Haiti earthquake zone compared to 911 compared to the number who perished. Is so sad. I still think there are people who give not out of love but of other motives. I remember reading a story about a rich man giving a money in public openly whereas a poor woman gives a few cents secretly somewhere. Who gives more? What is the motive or trigger for giving for these two persons?
    Oh, there are many corporate companies who give sometime to get a tax break and for other reasons. Anyway, it does not matter. As long as they give the poor and the needy do benefit. We shouldn’t question the reason for giving. We should just be grateful that they give.
    But it is indeed useful to analyse why people give so that we can help to raise funds for those poor orphans living in some of these Asian countries like Cambodia and Sabah.

  • Yes, Titus I agree with you. There are many stimuli that can trigger the behavior of giving. Oh, I now remember the word altruism, which is inherent to all human being, can best create a spark of giving.

    Now, this thread is getting interactive. CIAO!

  • Tituslow

    Actually I don’t quite agree with you. I do know of people who give for selfish reasons. Example I know of people who give because they want to have a tax deduction. I also know of people who give to charity to show off their riches. I also know of people who give to despise someone. For instance, I have seen someone who gave to a bankrupt relative to spite the person. So I really don’t think love is the main reason why people give to charity. We can actually give or donate money for many other reasons other than being motivated by love.
    Do you not agre with me?

  • Charity is love. It is a trigger that drives people to share what they have to those in need. A prominent cliche says, “you can give without love, but you cannot love others without giving”.

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