Giving time, not money

“Writing a check is simply a matter of figuring out an amount you can afford and sending it off. But actually donating your time, which was not counted by the survey toward the dollars people gave, seemed a far greater level of commitment.” This from an insightful story in todays’s New York Times by Paul Sullivan entitled A portion of the text appears below. For the complete story, see “Some Prefer Giving Time, Not Money, to Schools” in the New York Times.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a group that rated charities for their effectiveness but was surprised when one of the group’s young founders said he had stopped supporting groups focused on education. He had a perfectly rational-sounding reason: the problems were daunting and he didn’t feel his donations would have an impact.

Then, I heard about a recent study of high-net-worth households that found that education was the leading concern among affluent donors, ahead of health care, the economy, poverty and the federal budget deficit.

The report, by Bank of America and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, also found that the largest proportion of gift dollars was going to education (followed by philanthropic funds, family foundations and religious organizations). The study also found that the amount given to education increased more than any other category last year.

Some portion of this money certainly went to alma maters. But as I talked to the people who conducted the study, I realized that people were giving more than just money to education causes. They were giving their knowledge and experience.

“One of the more strategic issues in philanthropy is looking at root causes and not at symptoms,” said Claire Costello, philanthropic practice executive at Bank of America’s United States Trust division. “Education is a root cause. One interpretation of the data could be people feel if you rectify our education system, prosperity will flow to all of us.”


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