How the world is giving in to the giving attitude

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 - 11:03am IST | Agency: DNA

How generous are we? While most of us think we are generous, there is a wide variance in our giving habits.

The World Giving Index (WGI) has been mapping the giving behaviour of the world for the last few years. The 2013 edition has revealing insights in the way we give.

Giving is not linked directly to affluence. While the rich have more to give, often the poor tend to be more generous.

The most heartwarming surprise in the list is Myanmar. Among the least affluent countries in the world, Myanmar has the highest percentage of people who donate. More than 85 per cent of the population of country says it donates to a charity. This places Myanmar at the top of the list of giving countries by percentage of population. “Indeed, the list of the Top 10 countries most likely to donate money to charity includes eight countries not in the G20. The World Giving Index continues to show that high incidences of giving — in all its forms — are to be found in countries not commonly associated with philanthropy,” says the WGI 2013 report which is published by Charity Aids Foundation of America.

Myanmar is number three in the overall ranking but there are other surprising countries in the top 20 list. These include Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Libya and Philippines.

While US leads the ranking in the index, other affluent countries in the top 20 list include Canada, Australia, UK and Switzerland.

India is not among the top giving countries and is ranked at 93. But it scores high on the absolute number of people who are generous. The WGI calculates that about 244 million Indians donate to a charity.

The global decline in economy has led to substantial reduction in people’s wealth. But that has not caused a fall in giving behaviour. As the number of needy has risen, so has the giving. A large part of this has been driven by the youth. The percentage of youth who donated time, money or effort has increased. WGI expects this trend to become stronger.

The report does not capture the sectors and activities where the giving has been directed. In the case of India, I suspect more is being given to religious organizations than to charities supporting education or health. Much of the donating is driven by tax breaks that the givers expect as a direct benefit.

While the people in emerging economies are giving more than ever, I tend to believe they are not as organized and diverse in their charity. Philanthropy in the developed world is spread better across issues like human rights, women empowerment, disability, financial inclusion and culture. Indians tend to be more conservative in their giving by restricting themselves to issues close to their culture and community.

Despite the heartening news of rise in giving, some issues need to be addressed. Governments must encourage giving as the wealth of the middle class rises. Since many people are not sure about the credibility of charities and voluntary agencies, WGI says they should be, “…regulated in a fair, consistent and open way.”

Higher levels of transparency by voluntary agencies is equally important for philanthropic activity to gain momentum in emerging economies like India. Unless the voluntary sector improves its level of transparency, it will be difficult for givers to distinguish the genuine from the fake. A similar transparency by individuals and corporations is essential. Corporations must display higher levels of transparency when they donate money to voluntary organizations.

Many countries like India have mandated profit making companies to donate for social causes. Much needs to be done to ensure that such resources have the highest impact possible.

The author tracks India’s political economy and its engagement with the world

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