Question for Felix Salmon on Charitable Giving

Reuter‘s Felix Salmon wrote a blog post a few days ago on charitable giving and how the internet allows random acts of kindness. However, at one point Salmon asserts something and makes the rare error of not citing or linking to supporting evidence for his assertion:

The fact is that almost none of us have some kind of annual giving budget, from which we draw when we send money to someone like Karen Klein. Instead, we give as and when we’re moved to do so. Once you start giving money away, you’re more likely to give money away in the future; Stevenson’s implication, by contrast, is that giving money in one place makes you less likely to give money somewhere else. Which is completely wrong.

The first part of that paragraph I believe, but is it really true that once you start giving money, you’re more likely to give more in the future? When is “the future” exactly? For instance, if i give to a charity in April, am I then more likely to give in June? Or not until next year when I’ve earned more money (or in my case, hope to have earned more money)? I wish Salmon had linked to a study or any academic literature that shows this.

Also, at the extreme, giving money in one place DOES make you less likely to give to another. If you give your last $20 to one charity, there’s nothing left for you to give to another. Of course, that’s the extreme, but there has to be some point where an individual giving money to once charity makes them less likely to give elsewhere. That point may vary with each individual, but it does exist and Salmon seems to act here like it doesn’t.

Nevertheless, I agree with Salmon that the advent of the internet has changed how people give and charities must react to these changing times. Will this lead to a rise in charitable giving? I hesitantly say yes, but I’m not sure. Will it lead to less giving to charities and more to individual people? I’m very unsure about that, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.


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