Why don't you make a donation to charity?

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The Independent Online

Why do those with more disposable income not give as great a proportion of it to charitable causes as the poor? Part of the answer may be a simple arithmetical fallacy, in that people start to give to charity when they are students or in their first job and then fail to raise their giving sufficiently to maintain it as a proportion of their rising income.

Why do those with more disposable income not give as great a proportion of it to charitable causes as the poor? Part of the answer may be a simple arithmetical fallacy, in that people start to give to charity when they are students or in their first job and then fail to raise their giving sufficiently to maintain it as a proportion of their rising income.

Part of the answer, however, comes back to the many excuses we make to ourselves for why charitable giving is pointless – excuses which seem less plausible to those who have little money or recent memory of having none.

One of the cleverer of those excuses was touched on by this week's Social Market Foundation report, which confirmed that the poor give a larger proportion of their income than the rich. It is that the legal definition of charity is constraining and, certainly in the field of private education, downright misleading. A review of the purposes which can attract tax relief as charitable is overdue, but even if the survey was widened to "good causes", it must be suspected that the rich give away a smaller slice of their larger income.

Other excuses are more commonly heard. How can I be sure it will be spent on what they say it will? I pay my taxes. It is impossible for one person to make any difference to world poverty. Anyway, the whole of society is becoming less caring (see today's survey by Crisis, the homelessness charity). When examined, these are all abdications of responsibility. One charity advertising campaign once asked the question: "Do you need 50p more than she does?" It was a simplistic question, which cut out several stages of analysis about the causes of poverty, but it contained a simple moral truth, which is that those who are fortunate enough to afford discretionary spending feel some form of obligation towards those less fortunate than themselves.

If we feel that obligation, we cannot escape it simply by saying we do not know enough about the work of various charities to be sure our money will do good. It is up to us to find out. We hope that enough of our readers will take the trouble to heed and find out more about this newspaper's plea for donations to Add and Kids, two charities working to give independence to the disabled – a cause which is too often overlooked.

What is your excuse?

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