Sally Beatty has an intriguing article, "Giving till it Hurts," (subscription req'd) in the WSJ on stretch giving - a phenomenon (?) of making donations that seem to reach beyond a donor's financial capacity.
There are plenty of examples in the story - including the old favorite of Oseola McCarty, an elderly washerwoman who funded scholarships for financially needy African Americans at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Several points to ponder from this story:
- The article makes the point that changes in tax law from the Pension Protection Act of 2006 are one factor behind the increase in these gifts, specifically the ability to donate from retirement accounts;
- While retirement account giving explains some of the growth in gifts, the article also notes that many of these donors are still working professionals, so its not just retirement giving;
- Lots of advisers are mentioned - financial planners, the bankers who helped Ms. McCarty manage her savings, lawyers, development professionals.
- Most of the people profiled sought advice from family members about their giving - though not all got support for their generosity;
- "I don't need any more stuff," a quote from one of the donors, seems to resonate with all of those profiled.
The article is one of those lovely pieces of journalism that tells several stories, winds them together around a theme, pokes at possible explanations, but leaves this reader with a completely different conclusion than that implied by the title (may be simply a function of how headlines get written).
It isn't a sacrifice for these folks to give. On the contrary, it might hurt them more to use the funds in other ways - such as for mere consumption or accumulation. Of course, that's not much of an attention-grabber...or is it?