Personal Philanthropy

June 3, 2009

I was talking with one of my fellow Akidoists last week about how much trouble he has had raising money for the Aids Ride. We speculated that, with the downturn in economy people are giving less. I started to wonder about this (aloud of course), and kept thinking about it afterward.

As Chris Guillebeau points out many times on his website, if you are reading this, you are likely very rich. You are in fact, likely to find yourself in the top 1-10% of the worlds richest people. Regardless of how you feel about economic equity it is more likely than not that you’ll agree that we at the peak of the wealth pyramid are standing atop a wide base. That base supports us in ways that I can scarcely comprehend, but in many ways it needs our support as well.

I feel a responsibility to the billions of earthlings who, though their toil, skill, and wit have provided the foundation of the pyramid of wealth that I sit so comfortably on. But this post is not a call to socialism, in fact, its the opposite. A socialist society should have no need for philanthropy, as the government would directly support all environmental, social, health, and scientific development and protection. Our (American/capitalist) culture does require philanthropy though, both to sustain our environmental, intellectual, proletariat, artisan, and artistic base as well as to correct for the failures of the system.

When times seem tight for my family it is sometimes a struggle to remain mindful of the fact that whatever slump we may be feeling, we have not descended below even the top 10% of all earthlings. That pyramid is still supporting us, and we must continue to reinforce it. I’m not suggesting that we all turn our proverbial pockets out and deplete our personal wealth. A commitment of as little as 1% of our annual income could make a significant impact.

Consider that $50 US is enough to save an acre of rainforest or $73 US could provide a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda. Not a fan of charity? Why not try kiva? They facilitate microloans to highly motivated entrepreneurs in emerging countries.

What do you do to support the pyramid, and how do economic hardships impact your philanthropic efforts? Please leave comments!

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