Earlier this month, lots of varied and purposeful responses to the
government’s Giving Green Paper were published.
It was funny to see them. I’ve known that meticulous work
has been done on them by various sector bodies I have been in regular touch with for a few months now, and it was really interesting to finally be able to see
Reading through so many multiple page documents, all on the
same subject, may sound like a fairly laborious task. But it genuinely wasn’t.
The question of how we can get our society to become more
generous is a fascinating one.
I don’t have the space here to go into the kind of detail
that a lot of responses were able to, but I did want to use a blog post to add
a few of my own thoughts to the debate.
Firstly, I am no finance expert, but if our government does
not introduce lifetime legacies soon, I will be very disappointed in it. So many respected bodies and experts are calling for this
now, and making sensible-sounding arguments as to how such a tool could enable
substantial extra sums to be pledged to charity every year.
Our government would be foolish not to heed this advice –
surely it now has all the evidence it could possibly need or that could
feasibly exist to support introducing it.
At the same time I am not necessarily in agreement with the
idea that financial incentives are the fundamental answer here. Yes, the
government can always do more, but the principle behind generosity is that it
should not (really, it cannot) be exhibited in the hope of some kind of
If we merely increase tax incentives I would predict a short
term boom in giving rather than some kind of permanent culture shift towards a
more altruistic society. If you do not undertake an action for the ‘right’ reasons,
it seldom has the desired consequences, particularly in the long term.
One final thought. Ambition is never a
bad thing in life. And it is important that we do not forget the huge level of generosity people
exhibit every day already.
I think the more that is celebrated in a persistent yet
genuine manner, the more of it will happen quite naturally.