As the income levels of Americans concentrate among the so called “1 %”, generosity and empathy in the form of charitable giving remains equally diluted among the rest. This according to “American Generosity”, a new book by Patricia Snell Herzog and Heather E. Price, 2 researchers at the University of Notre Dame studying the social psychology of giving. Their study finds that middle class Americans give a far greater share of their discretionary income to charity than the rich.
The book suggests low income earners tend to be more connected to real day to day struggles, which often include the difficult decisions of feeding their families vs. paying their rent. It’s these struggles that give them a deeper appreciation for what even small amounts of money can do for those in need.
Meanwhile, Herzog found that wealthy Americans and busy executives who have plenty of cash, nice homes and fancy cars seem to feel as though they don’t have enough.
I guess what Aristotle really meant to say was “The more you have, the more you know you don’t have”
Regardless, the middle class — likely you and certainly I, seem to have figured out a good balance. We realize what we have is enough to make us happy and while we strive for more, we remain aware of our own material abundance and the needs of others. So how does the middle class do philanthropy you ask? Here are a few pointers…
Being considerate goes a long way. Opening doors, giving complements, helping a co-worker with an assignment or giving someone a few minutes of undivided attention might be all that’s required. Acts of kindness are a gateway to more giving and these acts are contagious, feel really good and don’t require extra money.
What would happen if you gave a small amount of money every time you did simple tasks like eating out, going for a run or having your morning coffee? With social media, the power of micro-donations multiplies due to sharing. It’s time we start thinking about giving more as a “social-tax” then a last minute donation at the end of the calendar year. We created Raizn for just this reason…
We’re all consumers and shopping is unavoidable. How we shop makes a big difference. The middle class is great at asking questions and inquiring about the products and companies they buy from. Start looking at fair trade products or companies that actually give back when you purchase from them (one of my wife’s favourites — Reformation). Being an informed shopper can give you the opportunity to support the environment or protect children’s and worker’s rights in developing countries. Remember, your demand determines the supply.
Nothing can change you more, as a person, than volunteer work. It has shown to counteract the effects of stress, anger and anxiety. A recent study in the UK once again confirmed the health benefits associated with volunteer work, finding that maintaing a sense of purpose was key to good health in people aged 40 and older. Perhaps you start small with animal shelters… nothing beats puppy therapy.
CSR is everywhere. The next generation of leaders will need to make giving a part of their business to truly connect with their millennial, socially aware customers. Perhaps that’s donating a part of proceeds or lucrative employee matching programs. The point is year round giving vs special one-off promotions for charity. And please use technology to make this easier and more engaging for your employees!
Remember, philanthropy is for you and I just as much as it is for the 1% – we just do it a little differently!
Originally published at medium.com