Giving and receiving

Giving White PaperTwo weeks ago the Government published the Giving White Paper. David Mills at the Guardian’s Voluntary Sector Network asked me for a quick 200-word response, which was included in the round-up of tweets and reaction on the day. I’m rather clumsily re-posting a snippet of what I wrote here. I’ve highlighted the piece I wanted people to think about the most.

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There is an encouraging theme running through the White Paper that backs up what I have heard with my own ears: an honest appraisal of the role of government. That means amplifying what works, helping to get more money to the best ideas, and brokering collaboration between charities and entrepreneurs.

There is a tendency in our sector to blame the givers (whether they are mega-rich, or like you and me) for not being more generous. But are we worthy of the gift just because we are charities? Do we still add value to the gift?

Has anyone questioned whether the way we currently behave towards donors may actually reinforce pre-existing social norms towards giving?

We need to break our obsession with donor transactions and the mechanics of what may have worked adequately well in the past. We should give more attention to the donor – rather than just the donation – and look at giving as an enriching personal experience for the giver, and not simply a one-off or series of transactions.

I think we will see (and need) more hybrid models for giving […] but giving is a means to an end. It’s what you do with the gift that matters. We mustn’t pretend that deeper pockets or a bigger bucket will bring instant results.

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