Nov
05
2009

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Guest blogger Greg Baldwin is President of VolunteerMatch.

Well, the easy answer is that it’s hard to make people give because people don't really want to. The logic is simple and compelling. People don't give because we are by our nature self-interested creatures pursuing our own survival in a competitive world. Adam Smith and Charles Darwin saw us for what we are: a collection of individuals looking to get ahead, not give back.

It has never been easy to argue with science but, of course, that hasn't kept people from trying. If you look closely you will see how many philanthropic messages begin with the assumption that the person on the receiving end of the message needs to be convinced how important it is to stop being so selfish. You've heard them before, these are the messages that you should be giving because you are not doing enough to address world's most pressing social issues.

We are pretty good at ignoring these messages, which ironically makes us look all the more selfish. But I think we've got the question wrong. I think the real reason it is so hard to make people give is because they would prefer to be asked.

And that is what America's Giving Challenge is all about. It’s about the rhetoric of asking people to give, and about the possibilities of better ways to ask. I think our generation understands that expanding philanthropy will not be a top down exercise. It will come from the bottom up with people who -- despite Darwin and Smith -- aren't afraid to ask for help.

The Giving Challenge is a great example. Noteworthy not because it makes more people give, but because it helps more people ask.

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