Friday, November 21, 2008

The American Way

A couple years ago, we had a missionary couple visit us before our first trip to Hungary. I had always known that Americans were very generous in their giving, but I received a new perspective from this couple, who were both from the UK yet had lived in the US for a bit and did most of their missions fundraising in the US. Their take on US giving? There is great encouragement/incentive for Americans to personally give to charities due to tax breaks, tax cuts that promotes this act. The reason most Europeans do not give? Their taxes are much higher and they depend on the government to do their giving for them. In fact, this couple did receive monies from England for their work. Of course, this makes fundraising in Europe a bit tricky, and they said that for the few friend who DO give to their cause, it's astonishing that they step out of the norm and do that, in any amount.

So, what about Americans giving during a time of economic downturn? If the incentive to give is solely linked to tax breaks/cuts, and not based on any intrinsic urge to help others, we might expect this to happen. However, this appears to not be the case. Historically, Americans have INCREASED their charitable giving during times of economic downturn. Could there be some value in encouraging people, whether with tax breaks, tax cuts or any other type of incentive, to give that actually results in turning on their compassion button?? I've always felt that the act of giving changes a person - almost always for the better. It's reassuring to know that this year this pattern of giving in America hasn't changed one bit!

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