Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Giving When Times Are Bad: The Private Sector Fumbles While Ordinary Folk Remain Generous

A crisis in philanthropy appears to be following the world wide financial crisis—except when it comes to ordinary folk. In recent years as conservative governments have slashed programs, charities of all sorts, educational institutions, and arts organizations have been encouraged to turn to private sources to finance their activities. But when big corporations run into hard times, among the first things they cut are their sponsorships while the crazy financial crisis of recent months has seen the value of invested funds tumble. The last week's headlines have included the news that Yale’s endowment has dropped 13.4 per cent, Nascar sponsors are pulling out, and the Vancouver International Children’s Festival is facing lean times, to name only a few. In addition, the massive Madoff fraud case is affecting hundreds of charities who entrusted their funds to the slippery Ponzi scheme.

I’ve always been troubled by the idea that private charity should take the place of publicly financed programs. Our societies have a collective responsibility to encourage arts, healthy sport, education and decent standards of living for all: governments shouldn't foist that task off on the private sector. Now the danger in relying on the whims or resources of the wealthy is becoming increasing apparent.

There is one encouraging thing, though, and that is the way that ordinary folk are stepping up when asked. Seasonal charity campaigns are reporting little drop off in contributions, and some like the big charity drive in Quebec—La grande guilgnolée des médias—actually have seen gifts go up. Ordinary folk understand that it is important to be generous: would that our governments in both the US and Canada understood their responsibilities in the past.

1 comment:

deBeauxOs said...

So the greedy stay greedy, and those with modest means find ways to share the little they have.

Who would have thought?