Giving to Charity is a Win-Win. Businesses, Governments, and People like us Can’t Affort NOT to Give to the Poor.

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Effective altruism is a movement that’s revolutionising the
way we give to the poor. Peter Singer described it as “one that combines
both the heart and the head.” The heart empathising with and wanting help
the less well off; the head ensuring our efforts to do so went the furthest. That’s
where the concept of effectiveness comes in. A hundred dollars given to a Guide
Dogs foundation will pay for less than 2 days of training (Guide Dogs Foundation, Australia, 2014); that same hundred dollars
could provide a reliable source of clean water to 300 people in Sierra Leone (World Vision, 2014). That’s not to say guide
dogs aren’t a worthy cause; but individuals, charities, businesses and
governments have begun to realise that the world’s most deprived regions are
where we can cause the greatest change, and that by directing a majority of our
funds there, we’ll create the greatest change.
Peter Singer’s Amazing Ted Talk on the topic of Effective Altruism
But though our heads are starting to temper the way these
funds are directed, it’s the heart that we target to gain those funds in the
first place. And it’s the second concept of the movement, altruism, that describes most of our efforts to help thus far.  At
its core, altruism encapsulates the very essence of humanity; our ability to
care for wellbeing of others and the act of putting their interests above our
own is an anomaly of survival of the fittest arguably unique to our species.
But the very words ‘charity’ and ‘aid‘ exude connotations of personal sacrifice,
and the fact that only 5 of 22 OECD countries give the agreed upon 0.7% of GNI
towards Official Developmental Assitance (OECD,
and a 40% drop occurred in private flows to charities from 2007-2008
due to the GFC (World Bank 2009)
shows that that sacrifice, especially in the face of adversity, is often deemed
too much; the reward of a warm, fuzzy feeling too little to justify the
But what if the rationality of the
mind, which so often gives us excuses not to give, could be used to justify giving
more? What if we viewing charity beyond the strict confines of altruism; what
is we saw charity as a win-win? 
Well, in many cases, charity is already just that. Though it
seems counterintuitive at first, there are already many ways governments,
corporations and individuals benefit themselves fiscally, as well as morally,
by helping those less fortunate than themselves. 
The rise of the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility
in the 1950s signalled a change in the ideals of businesses as they recognised
their success was intimately entwined with a satisfied, thriving population.  Since then, the benefits of engaging in
charitable behaviour on increased productivity and moral capital have become
well documented. Businesses, large and small, that allowed employees days off to
volunteer for instance, saw dramatic increases in workforce morale and
productivity (Smith 1994; Points of Light
Foundation, 2005
) and thus concepts such as “volunteering days” or “community leaves” were born. Similarly, larger corporations; particularly those in
disputatious industries, that engaged in strategic corporate philanthropy generated moral capital that mitigated the severity of sanctions and
unfavourable press against the firm when bad acts occurred (Fombrum 1996; Jackson 2007; Godfrey, 2005). This benefit of giving is great, but CSR has to grow beyond just a way of patching up the mistakes companies have made, and with the growing disgruntlement of the wider public to corporate irresponsibility leading to wide backlashes, indeed, they can’t afford not to engage in more generous acts.
But this isn’t a knife to the throat of businesses. Because the benefits
of engaging in corporate philanthropy are wide-ranging and already evident. And they go beyond those of improved
productivity and public relations… 

Brand image is of vital importance to a
company’s success, and acts of charity have excelled beyond that of maintain ethical practices and adherence to codes and guidelines; they’ve become a marketing tool. A wide-ranging survey found that 89% of consumers are likely to switch brands similar in price or
quality for such a cause (Cone
Communications 2014
). And strategic charitable initiatives taken by
companies, those initiatives in line with their core values, benefit not only the recipients, but
also the companies who organise them. Monsanto partners with many governments
in the third world to reduce world hunger through programs such as Project
Share, which provides farmers in India with education, tools, and their
superior genetically modified seed (Monsanto,
. This allows farmers to make the vital jump from sustenance to
commercial farming, gaining them not only free publicity through press
coverage; restoring Monsanto’s widely denigrated image of a greedy, “GMO producing (and therefore evil)” corporation,
but also creating farmers who will go on to become future customers themselves. This is but one example
showing how acts of kindness by businesses often turn out to be wise investments.

Over the years, consumers have become more and more willing to switch brands for companies that give more.


Cause related marketing, and the charity-business partnerships
that are born of it, have proven to increase the effectiveness and impact of
money given by corporations by reducing the reduce the costs of setting up while
also significantly improving brand image, as it associates the brand’s values
with the charity’s own (Porter and Kramer
. The Red Revolution, where  companies
such as Nikon and Starbux donate 10-50% of profits of product-lines with red labels to the Global AIDS Fund, allow consumers to make an impact
in their day-to-day lives while helping the company sell more product. This movement
is extremely effective, as it reduces the cost required to set up individual programs,
and the benefit to a brand that participates in this program is two-fold. Not
only are they improving brand image, they’re also getting a more
distinguishable, preferred product on the shelf. Positive brand image not only
to increased sales in the short term, but also garners businesses highly desired brand
loyalty. Potential customers are more likely to buy products from companies
that care, not just once, but over and over again (van de Brink et al, 2006; Hsieh A, Li C, 2007). The concept of microfinance,
which achieves staggeringly low default rates of less than 1% consistently (Grameen Bank, 2013; Field and Pande, 2008); a lower risk than a mortgage in the developed world, is further proof that the
gratitude of charity pays off directly. Those who benefit directly from
the company’s aid programs, as well as those in wider society who appreciate
their values, are more likely to be loyal customers of that brand.  

The power of the gratitude of those alleviated from poverty
seen in the microfinance industry brings to the fore another, less widely
acknowledged idea. That the alleviation of the burdens of poverty results in
increased consumerism and the development and the growth of emerging markets in addition to better
quality of life. And transnational corporations, particularly those from services
and technology industries, are already benefiting from this growth. The surge
of the middle class in China and India is living proof of this concept. Sony
forecasted a tripling of phone sales in China alone over 1 year [11], and Cisco System’s is
already providing nearly 40million homes in India with our equivalent of cable [12]], and as of 2009, GM sold
more cars in China than it did in the US (Ernst
and Young 2014), 
highlighting the gains that can be made by pushing more of
the world’s poorest into the middle classes.
The benefits to the poor countries are clear and staggering to say the
least; every  10% increase in the number
of people earning between $10-100 a day corresponds to a 0.5% rise in growth (Bhalla 2007), and the number of people
in that bracket is set to double to 3billion by 2030 (Ernst and Young 2014). Imagine how much companies and the world’s
poorest stand to gain by accelerating this growth further, and by establishing themselves and their brands early in the developing world through charity. Though the benefits to both  are clear, it can
be argued that the profits from human development take time and great
investment to be realised. But even now, the world’s poorest are holding
markets that corporations and businesses are targeting. Microsoft researchers published
a paper on how to increase the efficacy of mobile phone sales in Mumbai’s slums (Rangaswamy & Nair, 2010), showing even
the world’s least-well-off are beginning to access technology. Taking away their
biggest obstacles; basic sanitation, employment, housing and attainment of
education, is not only the cheapest, most effective way to help them; it’s also helping us too.

(cone communications 2014)


Governments are in a unique position of having both the political
and financial power that charities and businesses lack, which is why they’re
responsible for 80-85% of developmental aid that breaks down these barriers (OECD, 2014). Developed nations’
governments and their people tend to own and dominate the technology, research
and services sectors which stand to gain the most from the development of the
world’s poorest. Thus, despite popular opinion otherwise, it is indeed in their
best interests to foster this development. The bypassing of pharmaceutical patents
by many developing countries which represents a loss of nearly 3 billion
potential customers is
a perfect example of the hazards of the festering global inequality. Yet the
aid budgets of many countries in the Development Assistance Committee have
decreased, as lower than expected economic growth during periods of austerity
calling for the reduction of “unnecessary spending” (OECD, 2012). 
It could be argued though that the growth of markets are
long term, non specific benefits of aid, and that governments who give too much
at their citizens’ expense are irresponsible. But official developmental
assistance (ODA) already shows palpable benefits to nations in the short term. Multilateral
aid in particular cuts down the likelihood of international conflicts and
provides a very effective, collaborative way of dealing with crisis situations.
But bilateral aid, which comprises the 70% of ODA (OECD 2014), often directly benefits the giving nation through the
concept of aid-in-kind.  Tied-aid programs,
which attach assistance to the fulfilment of certain trade or policy
concessions, are often criticised for being less effective, predatory as
they’re designed to mainly generate income for the donating nation, or for addressing
human rights violations while ignoring the larger issue of global poverty (GAO 2009; Younas, 2008; Pfutze T, 2008;
Younas, 2008
). But this trend is changing, with developed countries  increasingly utilising the cheap labour and locally-sourced,
cheaper goods of developing nations while providing what them with what they don’t
have; technology and expertise. Australia’s contribution to the Small Hydro
power Scheme in Remote Fijian villages is a perfect example of this. Villagers were
allowed access to electricity for the first time, gaining them the ability to
store food and for children to study at night, while hydro-electric companies
and engineers from Australia gained contracts, stimulating economic activity in
Australia’s while also gaining the nation valuable expertise (Liu et al, 2013). And indeed, the very
engineers who participated in that program went on to help design the Snowy Mountain
Hydroelectric Scheme, which provides Australia’s largest state with 10% of its
electricity usage and invaluable irrigation to this day. 

But if charity is already such a no-brainer; why isn’t more
of it happening? 

How do we make the benefits clearer, in order to get it happening more?

The lack of evidence for the benefits of giving is part of the
answer.  Though there are numerous
studies linking Corporate Social Responsibility to improved financial performance
(Margolis and Waslh 2001; Griffin and
Mahon, 1997
) , little evidence exists quantifying those benefits (Vaidyanthan, 2008). Some suggest the
lack of consistent theory behind the benefits of giving  are to blame (Margolis and Walsh 2003; Smith 1994), others  that the methodology and sample sizes aren’t
consistent or reliable enough (Griffin and
Mahon 1997; Porter and Kramer, 2006
). But whatever the reason, it’s impossible
to justify  charity as an investment to
shareholders and voters when you can’t put a dollar figure to it. 
Securing this
data will cause change, but it’s only part of the answer. The development and
emergence of markets due to human development, the concept of customer and
recipient loyalty leading to profits, the improvement of brand image and international
relationships can’t, or aren’t even being measured as benefits of giving to
this day. Thus, a paradigm shift, along with increased investment, into how we
view and study aid is required to get reliable data on the benefits of giving.
This data will make giving something businesses and governments can’t afford
NOT to do. 
Perhaps people simply aren’t aware that giving can be mutually
beneficial. The semantics of giving and the sacrifice it’s associated with are
in part to blame for this, but lack of awareness of both the efforts companies already go
to for others, and the society-wide benefits of giving are part of it too. The
Red Revolution discussed previously is backed by large corporations such as Coca-Cola,
Starbucks and Apple; yet most reading this wouldn’t have even know it existed. I
know I hadn’t before I wrote this. If companies were to actively advertise
their efforts to help others more, not only would they benefit themselves through
increased sales and business (and put the onus on others to match them, thus
causing a chain effect that will increase the private sector’s contribution to charitable
causes), they’d also achieve another goal. 
Making the public aware that giving
can be a win-win. 
Charities are beginning to realise this too and are opening the eyes of the public to the idea that charity
needn’t be something that comes at their expense through giving people more interactive, more fun
ways of giving. The  UNICEF-Tap-App,
in partnership with Georgio Armani, is a perfect example of this. The app is helping thousands kick their smart-phone
addictions for the wonders of real life by giving them compelling motivation to
do so; the donation of a day’s worth of water for every 10 minutes users spent
off their phone. Smaller organisations, such as the Louis26 Foundation,
dedicated to helping cancer patients and their families through tough times,
organise parties, get-togethers and sporting events, with all proceeds going to charity, allowing people to enjoy
some respite from their daily lives without the guilt of self-indulgence (Louis Segregato 26 Foundation, 2014)MaterHomes runs lotteries with statistically
higher chances of winning per dollar spent; satisfying both the innate fascination
and desire of a decadent, luxurious life and the more accomplishable,
gratifying goal of helping others simultaneously. And microfinance
organisations, such as Kiva, are increasingly allowing users the option to
withdraw money if they wish to attracting not only altruistic donors, but also
those looking for a reliable way to save. 

(Click on any of the above to do these – I’ve personally participated in all of them – and they get the satisfaction of helping others without ever having to go out of my way or hurt myself financially for doing so.)

It could be argued that this mentality of benefiting yourself
while helping others  corrupts the very
ideals of giving. That it would create a business minded approach to charity
that would compromise that which we already gave to the more needy. But that allegation
assumes that people currently give only to gratify themselves, or because society
deems that they should. The heart is the core of altruism. And our compassion,
and willingness to help others will not diminish as long as inequality exists
in this world. The power of humanity will not be smothered by perceiving
charity as a win-win; it will be unleashed, as it unfetters the concept from the
chains of sacrifice that binds it. 
If people were to realise that charity is a win-win,
then people and the governments and businesses which exist to serve them would
be more able and willing to help others. Something that all humans are programmed to do,
deep inside. If businesses and governments, who control and regulate the entire world’s resources finally came to the realisation that the developing world has the most people, and stands to be the largest markets in the future; if they finally saw that they’d secure their prosperity by investing in, rather than holding back their potential, then charity wouldn’t just be a great investment, but one they can’t afford NOT to do.
If we could expand the scope of global development from the spare change in ones’ pocket to the entire bank’s own interests, if we could bring the $100trillion world economy to realise that growth need not come from the subjugation of others but rather the advancement of us all… we will finally cure poverty. 

This was a longer version of an essay competition entry I wrote for Bill Gates. Have a read of it and tell me what you think! Also let me know any other ways you can benefit yourself by giving to charity (I’ll be expanding on this and adding chunks to it over time, and showing more ways of how you can benefit by giving to others – and I’ll give you a mention for any idea I add in there!) Also – let me know what you think! 

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