Why You Must Prioritize Private Giving - America's Future

December 28, 2020


Why You Must Prioritize Private Giving

By: Ericka Andersen

When it comes to Americans in need, the public conversation often centers on government policies and programs that will offer more provisions for low-income citizens. Usually, the intention behind big government programs are good. People are interested in the best, most effective way to ensure those in need can get resources. 

While these intentions are noble, they aren’t always as effective as hoped. Government waste trashes many programs, sometimes tagged with needless earmarks for special interests and often duplicative of other federal, state, and local programs. Communication and streamlining aren’t exactly strong suits of the federal government. 

This isn’t to say that they should do nothing — or that taxes are theft, as some like to argue — but it’s understandable that those interested in less government and lower taxes see private charities and causes as a better pathway to helping fellow citizens. 

When you look at the ways in which private organizations provide for those in need, you can see how their dollars work more effectively to accomplish the task at hand. Interestingly, Philanthropy Roundtable finds that those who see government as less effective — usually Republicans — are also more likely to give the most generously. 

Thankfully, Americans have become more privately generous over the years, raising giving by 7x since the 1960s. As we enter into a more progressive federal government for at least the next 4 years, it’s important to remember why private organizations can better distribute your money than government can.  In fact, sometimes government policy can actually make it more difficult for those in need, with onerous paperwork requirements and quotas to meet. 

Here are a few reasons why private organizations are a better route: 

1. Avoid waste and corruption. Private organizations must justify every dollar spent, keep costs low and ensure they are meeting their goals to actually help people. They rely on donors and must prove their work is actually meeting the needs of the demographic. Because of this accountability, they are usually distributing funds in the smartest, most effective way possible.

2. Close connection with those in need. Many private organizations are smaller and local, meaning staff and leadership often have personal ties to those they serve. They know their stories and are on the ground, aware of the unique needs of the community in a way the federal government could never be.

3. You can hold them accountable. As a donor to a private organization, you are privy to their financial records and kept informed of exactly where funds are going and how they are being used. You are updated on the numbers, the specific difference your money is making. You also have the opportunity to ask questions and speak directly with those making decisions. Have you ever tried calling the federal government? Press 1 for the next available agent.

4. Relationship, not just resources. A monthly check is helpful, but without support that goes beyond dollars and cents, many people will not thrive further. The government can only provide so much monetary support, but those agencies will not show up at the door with a meal or provide relational support. Many private organizations, churches and charities offer money as well as this other, necessary life support.

5. Big government disincentives private giving. As we saw from the Philanthropy Roundtable statistics, those who believe government is sufficient often give less privately, which hinders the more holistic needs of the impoverished, who require far more than just a check to find their footing or get moving on a path towards personal and financial prosperity. In his book “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism?” former American Enterprise Institute (AEI) president Arthur Brooks found that a 10 percent increase in a state’s welfare spending correlates with a 3 percent decrease in charitable giving by its citizens.

6. Better use of funding. With private giving, we are forced to think much more critically about our choices of where to give. Relying on government means we can vote in elections, but after that, our power is muted. By zeroing in on private giving, you can make a real difference in the causes you care about most. The most effective programs and services make the cut, while others don’t because oversight from donors is key. 

Government programs are necessary, but it’s important that Americans prioritize private giving as the most effective route to helping others as individuals.