Charitable Giving Has Its Critics


“I think there’s something wrong with people not focusing their philanthropy on where it is going to do the most good,” said Peter Singer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University (on the Million Dollar List 144 times) and author of “The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty.” “I think that giving to art museums and operas and galleries and so on, in the world as it is today, is not doing the most good. I think that there are better things they could be doing with money that they’re giving away.”

Everything has a critic, including generosity. We give money to the things that are important to us—to churches, to organizations that support the poor and homeless, to arts organizations—but researchers at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy have found that wealthy donors disproportionately choose to give money to top-tier colleges, and arts and culture organizations like museums and symphonies, according to Marketplace.

Gifts to elite universities, fine arts museums and symphonies, spur one group of critics to argue that wealthy Americans donate to causes that benefit or appeal mostly to other wealthy Americans. Put simply, it’s an argument that the American elite already live in their own world, and then they donate to it.

Of course, giving is better than not giving at all, and we make our own choices when faced with the options in front of us. With limited money to give, I’d choose to give that money to organizations helping poor children over my alma mater which calls me every year asking for a donation (sorry, college).

Photo: Navfac

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