Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

are you generous or not?

3.26_imageEach year, six out of seven Americans donate less than 2% of their income and about a half of that group donates less than a $1 to charities or other causes.  This article explores the reasons why people shy away from being overtly “generous”, claiming it can be culturally inherent. Some of the reasons people do not give away money include: the tendency to think that donating is not their responsibility, the belief that they do not have enough money to spare, the feeling that their plate is too full and can’t muster the time/energy to contribute, and the belief that the poor should help themselves. In short, people often do not donate out of an instilled anxiety of self preservation.  One of the many reasons why this frame of thinking is unfortunate is because  contributing can generate positivity:

“We find a strong and highly consistent association between generous practices and various measures of personal well-being like happiness, health, a sense of purpose in life, and personal growth.”

As mentioned in the article, the happiness ones feels from donating to a cause they believe in outweighs material happiness. It is important for arts managers, particularly those in development departments, to understand the barriers many (potential) donors face and help them become engaged in the organizations that peak their interest. Doing so will help the art industry prosper and help the individual generate more of that positivity.


2 comments on “are you generous or not?

  1. Jenni
    November 7, 2014

    Thanks for sharing this! I know I personally need to work on my generosity. I’ve always found it can be hard to remember to be generous when your bank account is low and your student debt is beyond comprehension. But I’ve found that if I budget for generosity, I am more likely to do so, otherwise I will spend that money without a second thought.

    I think that organizations looking to get Millennials to give generously need to find a way to incorporate a cause that they can care about, and be okay with them giving in small amounts. I know it is really important to me to feel that my small gift makes a difference, since I can’t afford to give more right now. And if they can make the project matter to the potential donor, and be authentic about it, they will get more of a response (as we’ve seen with the many crowd sourcing campaigns on sites like Kickstarter). They also need to make it easy for them to give online (whether through an easy web address or having mobile devices available onsite) and in the moment. Because I know that if I don’t give at the moment I feel the call to action, I won’t do it.

  2. yaoge2016
    November 7, 2014

    After reading the article, I know what the author stands for. But the argument is not that convincing for me for the author only “interviewed 30 Americans who we classify as ungenerous to find out what they make of their lack of generosity and what they think stands in the way of becoming a more generous person.” Can only 30 of them represent all those ungenerous American? I’m afraid not. And I don’t think voluntary time and donation can be the only measurement of generosity, though they are crucial to nonprofit arts organizations. What about a man caring much for his neighbors and helping them out without the use of money, during which he has devoted lots of energy to it? Isn’t he generous?

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