Being someone who has worked with survivors of domestic violence, I sometimes wonder what would have happened if people did not donate to charity. This is because most if not all domestic violence organizations depend a lot on donations. For example, many women run away from their homes because of domestic violence and leave literally all their belongings with abusers. The shelters where these women end up give them and their children clothes, food and blankets. All these come from donations. In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, there is a women’s organization called Women in Distress (WID). This organization operates two shelters, and one of them has space for over 54 women and children. This shelter was purchased with funds donated to WID by Dr. Kona and Ruth Simon, and by Walter and Peg Griffith. In 1991, Janet A Boyle left a $1 million endowment to WID. These donations are saving lives by making it possible for women to escape from their abusive partners. There are several reasons why people should donate to charity.
Very few would doubt that there is a religious obligation to give to charity. In Judaism, there is the rule of “tsedakah” which demands that “one should willingly give 10% of their income to charity, after taxes. For them it is a matter of religious duty. The highest form of tzedakah is to help the poor in such a way that they become self-sufficient.” Christianity also has a similar obligation. In Mathew 22:25-37, Jesus was asked by an expert of the law “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”. Jesus’ reply was “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Those who are not sure who a “neighbor” is should look at Luke 10: 30-37, where, this time, an expert of the Law asks Jesus “And who is my neighbor?”. Jesus answered by giving a parable: A man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho was robbed and left for dead. A priest passing on the same way saw the man lying on the ground but offered no help. A Levite did the same. It was only the Good Samaritan who, upon seeing the man, felt compassion for the man and cleaned his wounds, bandaged him and took him to inn where he paid the inn keeper to take care of the man. It was the Good Samaritan who was the man’s neighbor. Anyone who is in dire need of help is our neighbor, and there is no way we can love our neighbors as we love ourselves if we cannot help them when they are in need. It is the duty of every blessed Christian to give to those in need. Islam also has a duty on the rich to donate to the poor.
There is also a moral obligation to donate to the poor.” For philosophers like Peter Singer and Peter Unger, the wealthy have a moral obligation to help the poor.” Failure of those who have to help the needy is almost like being an accomplice to the death of those who die of starvation when we could have donated and saved their lives.
Many times the rich become rich because someone is being exploited. This is particularly true especially when one looks at rich nations and why many third world countries are poor. The Berlin Conference of 1884-85 was held by European countries in order to share Africa amongst themselves like a piece of cake. The European countries subsequently milked the continent of its resources and used those resources to develop their own countries. Fortunately, Europeans used African soldiers to fight Hitler who was trying to take away their freedom, and this WW2 helped to ferment nationalist thinking in many of the African soldiers who learnt what the war was all about. It was immediately after WW2 that nationalism and independence movements swept the whole African, leading to the independence of many countries. However, the colonial masters found new ways of continuing to milk the economies of African countries for the benefit of their own countries. The thesis here is that African is one of the richest places on earth in terms of resources, but because of historical exploitation by the West, Africa is as poor as a church mouse! It is only right for people in the West to donate for the benefit of the poor in Africa because part of their wealth is from the exploitation of the African continent. A similar argument holds for Native Americans in the US and Canada: they were chased away from their lands by the Whiteman. Shouldn’t people happily donate for a cause aimed at alleviating the poverty of the Native American which they caused in the first place?
Donating to charity also benefits the person donating as well, not just tax wise but also in other ways. Donations to charity may be tax deductible and “(t)ax deductions shrink the pool of taxable income you owe.” Donating to charity also makes the donors happy people, and being happy makes us less likely to be sick. “Giving is one trait that bounces back, often immediately, once you throw it away. Aside from making other people happy, the feeling of being a blessing to them makes you happy, too. We’ve all heard that money doesn’t buy happiness. The truth is, it does, only that it tends to be short-lived when we do it for ourselves. To make it last longer, we can try buying happiness for other people. One way to do this is by donating to a charity. Studies show that 43 percent of people who give money to charity say that they are very happy than non-givers. On the other hand, 42 percent of volunteers say that they are happy compared to non-volunteers. According to Elizabeth Dunn, a psychologist from the University of British Columbia, regardless of how much income each person made, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness, while those who spent more on themselves did not.” People who donate to charity, especially where large sums are involved, are honored by having things/places named after them. Individuals/businesses that donate to charity also become very successful because people respect them for giving to charity.