How can we get society to become more generous?

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
their thoughts.

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
financial return.

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.

5 Responses to “How can we get society to become more generous?”

  1. Peter Thomas

    Anyone with evidence of wrong-doing at A4e should contact Margaret Hodge MP who is requesting the suspension of all contracts with A4e and is calling for a full inquiry.

    The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP
    Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts
    Committee of Public Accounts
    House of Commons
    SW1P 3JA

    Telephone: 020 7219 3274
    Fax: 020 7219 2782

  2. Eowyn Rohan

    On a broader issue, let us not obsess with A4E at the expense of organisations of a similar ilk….. such as Working Links, the Government having awarded them contracts to run the New Deal and Flexible New Deal.

  3. Edward Harkins

    Commendable stuff John. IMO charities in general – and many other third sector enterprises and organisations – are failing to heed the dangerous and accelerating rise up the media agenda of their remuneration and corporate behavours. Your piece could be usefully read in conjunction with this week’s article by Rosie Chapman in which she states:

    “Researching my earlier article I couldn’t find any obvious examples of larger charities supporting and working with smaller charities, rather than competing with them. Does social responsibility mean larger charities have an obligation to collaborate with smaller, niche charities?”

    Doubtless someone could come up with exceptions but that’s all they would amount to, in my experience – exceptions.
    Article at:

  4. Pamela Ball

    Well said, concise and on target ! Thank you John for helping to clarify my thinking !

  5. Bueller

    Whilst I share your sentiment and would love to live in such a place where “charities are different” when purchasing from suppliers,when competing on a retail level, when putting in a pitch to provide services, but that is just simply not the case.

    Also, the pay index you suggest says nothing of an individual’s ability, relevant experience or indeed how much responsibility that individual takes on, things which I’d always believed are important when calculating what remuneration to offer someone.

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure that my staff don’t get preferential mortgage rates because they work for charity, so I’d rather they can earn a good salary in this sector than for charity jobs to only be realistic opportunities for those who can rely on the trust fund from Mummy and Daddy.

    So, whilst I agree with the sentiment John, thing’s aren’t quite as easy as you claim they could be.


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