January 26, 2007, 12:00 - 2:00 PM - Hudson Institute, Washington, D.C. Headquarters
Transcript Now Available - Click Here! (PDF Format, 29 pages, 342 KB)
A complete, edited transcript is now available of the Bradley Center's January 26 panel discussion, entitled
Friday, January 26, 2007 • Noon to 2:00 p.m.
Program and Panel
On January 26, 2007, Syracuse University's ARTHUR BROOKS, author of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism, presented to a Bradley Center audience his "breathtakingly specific" (so said Bill Schambra) evidence that charity is one of the most important sources of strength and vitality for individuals, communities, and our nation - or in other words, as the title of the book's chapter seven states, "Charity makes you healthy, happy, and rich."
Brooks' research found "an apparent statistical causal relation" between charitable giving and prosperity in American society. In other words, charity pushes prosperity. Brooks calculated that a family that gave $100 more to charity per year than a second family would have earnings - statistically attributable to the charitable gift - of on average $375 more than the second family. He also calculated that "…if we were to increase our charitable giving by 1 percent… that 1 percent increase would amount to about $2 billion a year released into the philanthropic economy. That would translate, according to the data, to about a $38 billion increase in GDP."
In his presentation, Brooks offered several reasons why increased charitable giving leads to increased prosperity - for example that people who give feel more in control of their lives, and that charitable giving allows people to draw a sense of personal meaning from their generosity toward others. When people give, they become more effective. When they become more effective, they become more successful, Brooks observed.
But more interesting were the implications for policy Brooks outlined. First, charitable giving and taxes are not substitutes for one another for several reasons. Second, families, schools, communities, and churches "can consciously teach charitable behavior and be successful in doing it." Third, there are things the government must do that charity cannot, and things that charity can do that the government must not. "Those are the things we need to identify and we need to stay off [nonprofits'] turf with government giving" or else forego the benefits of charitable giving. And finally, nonprofits should rethink their acceptance of anonymous gifts. Every time donors make a gift public, "someone will mimic it and you will bless those people," Brooks told the audience.
To comment on Brooks' presentation, the Bradley Center assembled a panel including Eugene Scanlan, Certified Fund Raising Executive and former president of the Washington chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals; Scott Walter, Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy; and Hudson Institute's own Amy Kass, author of a forthcoming anthology on philanthropy (Giving Well, Doing Good: Readings for Thoughtful Philanthropists) as well as the 2004 anthology The Perfect Gift. The Bradley Center's Bill Schambra moderated the discussion.
Scott Walter spoke about the President's commitment to the faith-based initiative office "to change the way we think about these issues, and especially to shine the spotlight on the efficacy of neighborhood and community efforts by Americans to aid other Americans." Similar offices have opened up at the state and city level around the country, for example Governor Napolitano's office in Arizona. Walter went on to say that while such offices seek to raise up charity, such efforts have to be wary of fostering dehumanizing dependency. On the national level, the Bush administration urges decentralization, shared responsibility, empirical analysis and a focus on what works, and the value of vouchers.
Gene Scanlan, a fundraiser, brought up one fact presented in Who Really Cares that Brooks himself did not address in his remarks: the fact that conservatives give more than liberals. Scanlan sought to qualify the idea that religion or American patriotism inclines people to give more than nonreligious people or people from other countries. Perhaps, Scanlan speculated, conservatives give more because they value traditions in general, and giving is a tradition, one that - he agreed - needs to be taught. But there is a historical context for giving that goes far beyond American society and any particular religion. Moreover, "it's what [organizations] accomplish that's important," not necessarily the particular value that drives the organization to do what it does, or that drives the donor to give, just in general.
Amy Kass pointed out that Brooks' very broad definition of charity makes no distinction - as many folks do in organized giving - between charity and philanthropy, which Walter also mentioned. "Doesn't the denial of the distinction necessarily have political implications?" she asked. But Kass addressed most of her remarks to the question of whether (and to what extent) givers do indeed benefit from their gifts. Brooks' insight that givers do benefit is "right on target," she said, but in her view he falls short in drawing statistical correlations to prove what is essentially a philosophical point, one made by Aristotle centuries ago.
To begin the question-and-answer session, Bill Schambra asked if the American electorate would buy the argument that cutting taxes would actually help the poor. Kass and Brooks offered that they have and they would if Americans subscribed to an expanded notion of "self" that includes helping others, the Aristotelian view that self-fulfillment comes through giving to others.
A question from Hudson Institute's Samantha Grayson turned the discussion towards the recipients of gifts, and the fact that gifts can be degrading for recipients (particularly poor people) rather than uplifting. Is anonymous giving better in this regard? Kass wondered. Scanlan supported anonymous giving, while Brooks saw it as more likely to be harmful. Brooks added that most charitable giving in the United States is not redistributive (that is, it doesn't go to poor people), and so the issue of degrading dependency is not widespread.
Other questions, asked by Robert Woodson, Sr., Ben Wattenberg, Edward Roeder (Sunshine Press), and Pablo Eisenberg, turned the discussion toward different giving practices of different generations, the danger to philanthropy of a sense of entitlement, and trust and abuse in the nonprofit sector. Eisenberg in particular wondered whether private charity will be more redistributive than scaled-back government programs have been. Brooks didn't see any reason for increased redistribution. "Whether that troubles you or encourages you about the way we can prosper and the way that we can grow and create opportunities… depends on how you see the world…. That in and of itself is a conversation that we should be having …more frequently, such that the different opinions on that can help… inform how foundations and individuals are consciously doing their giving," Brooks concluded.
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