How much should I be giving each year?

For a number of years I have had the good fortune to work as both a fundraiser and as a grantmaker across three continents – North America, Australia, and Asia.

In my work, travels, and research, I have come across a number of different ‘protocols’ or ‘norms’ for personal giving. Everything from Giving While Living, the philosophy and practice of Chuck Feeney, who irrevocably gave away 99.9% of his billions while he was in his fifties, to those who believe that they should leave all of their wealth to their family in their last will and testament.

I have come to the conclusion that waiting until you die to give away your wealth is irrational. Even foolish. Where is the joy from the cemetery? Where is your active involvement when you are in the cemetery? Where is the mental stimulation and problem-solving? And how many people will have experienced prolonged suffering, sadness, or simply missed opportunities because you gave then and not now?

While I often work with high net-worth givers, I have always been searching for a giving norm that could do two things:

First, it could work for everyone – from the battlers to the billionaires, and

Second, it was modest enough and reasonable enough so that everyone could at least give it a go. Because I believe that until you give, and give regularly, you don’t understand the real personal benefits of giving, and you don’t really understand all of the various aspects of money – making it, saving it, investing it, spending it, and giving it. And giving regularly will permanently change you. For the better.

So, for me, it’s fundamentally about learning. Just like any new skill, you have to learn it. First, you need to know what you want to learn, then you need to find out who the good role models are, and to take the necessary actions based on your preferred role model (even if it’s in very small initial steps). And finally, you need to keep working at it, and learning how your actions are getting you closer and closer to your ideal new behaviour and your desired outcomes.

Some time ago I learned of a group in the USA called The One Percent Club*. They promote the norm that we all should give at least 1% of our net worth (net assets) each year to those less fortunate. They don’t specify that it is to go to a particular charity. They are not trying to raise funds. They simply say give away 1% of your net worth (net assets) each year.

I like the idea of giving away a percentage of assets per year, not income, because your net assets are your accumulated wealth over your lifetime, and include all that you have inherited.

Another thing I like about this ‘new normal’ is that everyone can give in proportion. What I call proportional generosity. No one will feel left out. The battler with only $100,000 in net assets who puts $20 per week into the church collection basket will end up giving away at least $1,040 per year. More than 1% of his or her’s net assets.
And I would argue that it’s harder for the battler to give that 1% away than it is for the billionaire.

Is 1% of your net worth too much for you? That’s what I call the platinum standard for annual giving. Take a look under Metrics on this web site for the gold, silver, and bronze standards. Where there’s a will, there’s a way… find a way!

Do you know how much accumulated personal household wealth (not corporate wealth) there is in Australia? It’s estimated to be $6 trillion.

Do you know how much 1% of $6 trillion would be? $60 billion to charities and not-for-profits in Australia each year. Every year. Imagine what a difference that would make!

That’s why I started this website. To renew and expand the debate about ‘What should the giving norm be in Australia?’ and ‘What should I, personally, be giving away each year? is not a charity. It is not a foundation. I am not looking for your money.
I simply want to promote the belief that, in the end, life is about giving. And until you give, and give on a regular basis, you won’t really understand, in the marrow of your bones, how wonderful giving really is – for everyone. Especially for the giver.

I give 1% (gold standard) Every year.

Can you help make it the ‘new normal?’


© Copyright Dr David Kennedy, 01 December 2012.