Thursday, February 15, 2007

Encouraging a Culture of Giving

Tony Blair makes a very valid and interesting point in a speech today when he says that although British and US universities have roughly the same level of public funding, American universities attract fifteen times more money from philanthropists than their British counterparts. We should be asking ourselves why that is. Why do rich Americans seem happier to part with their money to fund universities, arts projects, sporting institutions and the like, than we do?

Philanthropy in this country has a proud history. Many of our museums would never have got off the ground without it. In the 19th century there was a culture of giving, but as the role State has grown beyond all recognition things have changed. Nowadays, many people regard the State as the 'giver of first resort'.

It's also why it's far easier to raise donations for political parties or causes in the US. Even comparatively poor people are used to donating to Presidential candidates. Here, such donations remain rare, and the preserve of the rich.

British philanthropy outside the rich and famous centres around TV charity appeals which tug at the heartstrings and appease people's guilt. A £20 donation to Children in Need often makes people feel that they have 'done their bit' for the year.

So I applaud Blair's initiative on philanthropy for universities. It now needs to be expanded into other areas too.

39 comments:

Newmania said...

When the tax regime in this country was less soviet Iain this country was the centre of philamthropic activity . in fact you could say that most of the state ,its schools ,hopspitals and so on were originally the product of private philanthropy.
As tax has become increasingly harsh and the state moved furth annd furthe into the voluntary sector so the tradition has died.

Blair understands nothing of this country.I detest his sanctimonious prattle and will be relieved when it is past

lowtaxman said...

Why do rich Americans seem happier to part with their money to fund universities, arts projects, sporting institutions and the like, than we do?

Tax breaks for the donors, perhaps...

Anonymous said...

And handily for Blair, the more dosh we cough up for colleges, the less he has to !! Of course, if the country had less inequality, there would be less need for philanthropy of any sort..

Cranmer said...

Philanthropy in the UK has Christian foundations. It was the faith of the philanthropists that motivated many of them to part with their money, convinced that good works were demanded of sincere faith.

With Labour's persecution of faith-based charities, the rampant secularisation of society, and the consequent demeaning of the 'Christian' label, it is of great concern that Christians who wish to do good works may now only do so if they repudiate their religious convictions and sign up to the the enforced creed of secularism.

The Lord must be saying something to the Conservative Party, for this topic is the subject of Cranmer's blog today.

Anonymous said...

If major state funding of political parties goes ahead it will need someone other than a politician to push this concept.

kinglear said...

The real reason the Americans are bigger givers ( apart from the Stae being less important in their lives)is the way the tax system treats donations. Here, to give £100, you make out a cheque for £78 and a gift aid form, so it just feels like you gave £78.
In the States, the donations REDUCE your tax bill. If you earn USD 1000, and give USD 400, you only pay on USD 600 - and that FEELS seriously better.

jafo said...

Think people feel their taxes have paid for these institutions already, Iain, and they're not giving them any more.

Private giving for what people do perceive as "donating to others worse off than we are" is huge in this country, however. Look at the millions donated for the Tsunami Relief in a very short time. People are very generous for what they see as a good cause.

There's an organisation called Samaritan's Purse which runs "Operation Christmas Child" every year. People pack a shoebox with all sorts of gifts/useful items for a child (you specify which age group & sex for your box) and the boxes are distributed throughout Eastern Europe and parts of Africa. Christmas 2006 from the UK alone 1.24 MILLION shoeboxes were packed. Every box is individually packed and donated. When you pack a box you can feel you personally are doing some good to a child who needs it. You can see where your money has gone. (By the way, I'm nothing whatever to do with the charity, apart from packing a shoebox each year) I'm not trying to campaign for it.

Frankly, it's a bit rich for someone like Tony Blair to be extolling the virtues of charitable giving - after all, it was his wife who took so much money from her talk allegedly in aid of a children's cancer charity that the charity had to close, was it not? Haven't noticed the Blairs putting their hands in their own pockets lately..........

Anonymous said...

Iain tell your friends the answer is still NO ,whatever way you put it, most buildings where I live that were bought by Public Subscription years ago ,have been bulldozed and the land now has Tesco's ,Asda ,and Private housing,look what they did with the Lotto ,before it came out ,we had promises of football fields in every area for the kids ,were the Churchill Papers of more value ,was the Dome more value .

Ed said...
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bt said...

You've got to laugh about this, it's another coded admission that the NuLab/Lab/Socialist promise that the state can and will provide world-class education, health or whatever is seen as unrealistic even by it's promoters.

But he wouldn't like it if universities and schools were able to raise enough money to become independent of the state and could tell the men from the ministry to go stuff themselves.

No, he just wants philanthropists to donate enough dosh so as to generate sufficient governmental savings which will then allow some really essential spending to be made elsewhere - such as retirement bonuses to Scottish councillors, performance related(!) bonuses for the CSA and paying for a crack army of anti-smoking snoops to storm offices and pubs throughout the land.

Got to get your priorities right, haven't you?

Anonymous said...

These days, with a target of 50% going to "University", rather than it being a great privilege, and that 50% getting into large amounts of debt to go there, where is the sense of duty to give back?

When schools have no separate identity but are just part of a homogenised state system, where is the local connection?

When the local hospital isn't run locally but can be shut at the whim of a regional authority, why would anyone risk helping it?



I wonder how much Tony has given to St John's - perhaps someone needs to look up their college Record.

jailhouselawyer said...

Interesting that you should choose to praise Tony Blair when Boris Johnson also wrote about this subject in the Torygraph.

James said...

Presumably then, you would approve of the same system being introduced for donations to political parties?

Iain Dale said...

James, yes indeed.

Snafu said...

Iain, you're having a laugh!

Not only is Tony Blair content to charge English students far more than Scottish and Welsh students to go to University, he now wants English taxpayers to give more generously too!

Too many students already go to University anyway...

macles said...

The US academic system is fundamentally different. The top universities are, for the most part, de facto private institutions. There is no argument about fees - everyone pays, or if lucky enough, get scholarships and bursaries to pay for them. Students are revenue. It's costed to the last cent. Alumni fund raising is a sophisticated endeavour over there. But, what the money actually brings is not so clear. Presidents are often divorced from the needs and wishes of their top faculty, and most departmental activity directed to improving educational standards, or research facilities is funded through grants from public funding bodies (on which the private universities happily levy 50% and more overhead charges!!!), not handouts from endowments. Moreover, direct gifts to departments to fund endowed chairs can be double-edged swords when an existing, university funded position comes up for renewal and a Dean decides that as that department has a lot of 'freebies' through endowment, that the position is to be given to a poor-relation institute down the corridor.

The infrastructure of european universities funded by public money is comparable to that available in the US (with billions of private cash sloshing around). Faculty salaries relative to local cost of living are comparable - sometimes marginally better in europe. The clear advantage a US university offers is autonomy, independence, transparent employment and tenure requirements, and more transparent evaluation of funding requests. These elements are what in the end keep the top faculty there for the most part. A university's quality is most dependent on the quality of the faculty and thus, the US has got the most important thing right. But it isn't about funding levels per se. There is plenty of money from a different source sloshing around in europe. The organisation here is just appalling.

I cannot speak for worst-of-all-worlds Britain of course. And as to Tony Blair involving himself in any way shape or form in academia, such an anti-intellectual prick should stay away and stick to god-bothering, or devising ever-sleazier ways to pay his mortgage.

no longer anonymous said...

Demolish the welfare system including state-funded education. People will have more money and more incentive to donate.

Ken said...

Quite simple, Iain. While the American universities are run by and large as private institutions, here in Britain they are seen as fair game for government interference. Hence, for example, the Higher Education Funding Council, which sets the ridiculous "benchmark" figures for state school admissions, comprising a majority of government appointees, not university appointees - a change that happened under Blair. While he thinks the universities are fair game for social engineering, people aren't prepared to donate.

Anonymous said...

Jailhouse- like or hate Blair you have to take him seriously-now Boris-Boris will always be one "biking" incident away fom disaster!

Anonymous said...

But political parties aren't 'good causes' ?

Ed said...

And handily for Blair, the more dosh we cough up for colleges, the less he has to !!

So Blair pays for the public services out of his own pocket? I thought I did along with the rest of the net contributors.

Anonymous said...

Don't assume all American giving is driven by philanthropy - as well as the tax breaks many companies, especially in the professions, employ a moral (or not so moral) system of coercion to enforce giving to the United Way/local Arts Fund/appropriate Political Action Committee - and not being seen to do right thing can damage your promition prospects etc. There is alot of talk within US offices about the linkages between supporting certin causes/attending certain churhes etc and getting on.

Anonymous said...

What has the encouragement of a culture of giving got to do with the state?

I would like to encourage the state to discontinue its culture of taking away.

Even with this new Blair initiative it's a taking away approach. "If you give your money to this cause, then I will take some taxpayers money to this cause".

I give, I pay more tax. You give, I pay more tax.

Anonymous said...

I'd have thought part of the reason the very top universities there get such huge donations is that being private institutions, they are able to give your children a better chance of admission if you give them money.

Anonymous said...

So lets give everyone tax breaks on giving - the net results of this is that instead of relying on the state for support a lot of people would have to rely on the goodwill or otherwise of the well off. Sorry but I would rather that a democratically elected government decided who was worthy of support rather that the well off. Trickle down theory should have ended with the feudal system

ChaunceyGardener said...

No longer anonymous said at 1134

'Demolish the welfare system including state-funded education. People will have more money and more incentive to donate'

Why do I believe if that happened out tax burden wouldn't go down anyway.

lowtaxman said...

Also, Americans' attitude to wealth is different - they are happy to be seen as wealthy, often they flaunt it, they all aspire to it. They are pleased to be seen to support their colleges, particularly with the tax breaks.

Here, the wealthy and the affluent middle classes are constantly lampooned and derided by parts of the media, some politicians, chattering classes etc. To become rich, and to be seen to be rich, is to be a target for all this (unless you are a rock star or footballer). No wonder the wealthy professional and middle classes are more circumspect about giving money away here - and the tax breaks are not the same.

It's an important issue, Iain - and well done for raising it. Keep on with it - but we may also need a revolution in attitudes as well.

The Remittance Man said...

For at least 60 years the government and Labour governments especially have been telling Britons that the state will provide for their needs. 60 years of brainwashing are bound to have their effect.

The vast majority of the British public are now convinced that if they pay their taxes they have done their philanthropic duty so far as education, health etc are concerned. If one looks at the generosity of the British public when it comes to other matters one can see the spirit hasn't disappeared; it's just been redirected to the RNLI, orphaned donkeys, etc.

Unfortunately this does rather leave El Tonio at the very crappy end of the stick now he's got to admit he's wasted all the loot he's taken. But somehow I don't think the compassionate British public will show much generosity of spirit towards him.

Damn! I love it when lefties get shafted by the consequences of their own idiocy.

Ed said...

Slightly off topic: Why has Blair suddenly realised this? After all he's only been in ten years.

As Noel Gallagher might have said: he was the future, once.

IanP said...

because in America the state does not interfere and meddle at every level of your life.

They dont have educational 'reforms' every year, so they actually know when their system is likely to turn out, what exams are valid, rather than whats valid this year, because next year it will be different.

Keep politics out of education, then perhaps it can settle down and attract the kind of donors he speaks of.

Anonymous said...

Because there are too many universities, and too many students at university, it has actually watered down the value of getting a degree.

Why invest in a mass produced system, investors will only put their money into something unique and special.

ian said...

If something is unnecessary, then the cost should be borne by the user. But if something is necessary, then it should be funded from taxation, so the burden is spread amongst everyone. And then it could be sold off by the tories.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Blair makes me cry. He is taxing the country to the hilt. His government is trying to interfear in peoples lives more and more. Then he thinks the rich should give more to the Universities.

He cant have it both ways.unless he is giving out seats in the Lords.

Steven Bainbridge said...

As most people here have said, the culture of the welfare state and public spending has been entrenched into the minds of the majority, and people don't seem to remember that things work best and with much more efficiency through private means rather than the muddle presented to us by the government.


Steven Bainbridge
A View from the Right
http://stevenbainbridge.blogspot.com/

Observer said...

Duke University was founded by a tobacco magnate before the Trusts were busted.

Stanford was founded by a railway baron who had bought the California State legislature and donated The Farm in memory of his deceased son.

The House System at Harvard was paid for by Edward Stephen Harkness from his Standard Oil fortune having bankrolled Rockefeller

Harvard Business School was paid for by George F. Baker who had founded Citibank

Rice University became rich through Fayez Sarophim who was a very powerful fund-manager and donor

There are very rich families in the US through exploutation of monopolies and ownership of mineral resources (forbidden in Britain).

Nowadays much US funding is raised through alumni who are attracted by the foorball team which is why sport is so critical to US fundraising - but Oxford has a professional and foreign boat crew and a poor cricket team.

Then again I recall listening to a conversation in Harvard Square of an applicant saying he would get a place as his father had just made a large donation. In another case a friend whose father ran an I-Bank on Wall Street told me he could sail into ABC as his father had just solved their financial worries.

Money Talks...and Americans know it.

Observer said...
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Londoner said...

I can never quite understand this point over US tax breaks as, since we have had Gift Aid, surely the position is in reality the same (correct me if I am wrong, someone) Kinglear says: "In the States, the donations REDUCE your tax bill. If you earn USD 1000, and give USD 400, you only pay on USD 600 - and that FEELS seriously better." - but this is exacly the effect of Gift Aid. Also, if you make regular donations you can get your tax code to take it into account and therefore get the higher rate relief as you go along.

Macles says; "The top universities are, for the most part, de facto private institutions." and bt: "But he wouldn't like it if universities and schools were able to raise enough money to become independent of the state and could tell the men from the ministry to go stuff themselves."

That is precisely the point. Oxbridge Colleges do raise money because they ARE private institutions and much of the motive of donors like me is to try to enable them to shake freer of Govt interference (as well as such things as preserving the tutorial system which we enjoyed at State expense but the funding for which the present Govt has ended).

So hence the dilemma with today's proposal. Yes, I absolutely believe in alumni giving but will this extra Govt subsidy beyond normal charitable tax relief come with strings attached and become something else for the Govt to threaten to withdraw if the recipient institutions do not do its bidding?

I also think that people will not give money to the State owned Universities unless it is linked to very specific projects. So surely privatisation and independence of any University wanting to raise significant money is a necessary prerequisite, with State funding purely following the student. But the inevitable resulst is that many of the lesser places would not have the reputation or quality to survive under that scenario.

Voyager said...
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raincoaster said...

macles and observer have it right, as does the nony who observed that donating heavily to universities helps your offspring get accepted. I went to school with a girl whose family had donated four separate buildings to a university: I had better marks and more extra-curricular activities than she did, but she got in and I did not.

And more than half of the US university endowment money which IS spent (most of it is invested) is spent on sports. Some college athletes fly first-class, some are given cars; you would not believe the abuse. And team spirit is leaned heavily on in the fundraising literature, for good reason. "Help us beat Yale" pulls more hearstrings and dollars than "Get a cleaning woman named in your honour!"