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Posts Tagged ‘Charity’

What Makes a Donor Donate? (Ep. 51)

In our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast, we look at the economics of charity — specifically, what works (and what doesn’t) when trying to incentivize people to give. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript.)

In Australia, Dick Smith’s electronics empire has afforded him enough success to be able to donate about 20 percent of his annual income to charity. But, he says, this kind of generosity is no longer the norm:

Are Canadians Really More Generous Than Americans?

From the SuperFreakonomics chapter on altruism: “Americans in particular are famously generous, donating about $300 billion a year to charity, more than 2 percent of the nation’s GDP.” That said, the conventional wisdom seems to hold that Americans are outclassed by our neighbors to the north.

"The Donors Are Taking the Place of the State"

A group of 40 American billionaires, led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, has publicly vowed to donate at least half of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Gates and Buffett, through their project The Giving Pledge, hope to persuade the 400 richest Americans to join them. If successful, the duo could generate an unprecedented $600 billion for charity (Americans as a whole donate about $300 billion a year). A laudable example of pure altruism, right? German shipping tycoon Peter Krämer thinks not

Charitable Giving in a Recession

A new report, based on the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy’s Individual Giving Model (IGM), estimates that individual charitable giving was down 4.9% percent in 2009.

The Problem With Food Aid

Planet Money and Frontline report on the distorting effects of foreign food aid on local food economies, particularly in Haiti. People don’t buy rice when they can get it for free.

How to Subsidize a Haiti Donation

Charitable giving, as we’ve noted here, here, and elsewhere, is a tricky animal. Much of the giving that is considered pure altruism is in fact incentivized by a variety of factors. As we note in SuperFreakonomics, “U.S. citizens are easily the world’s leaders in per-capita charitable contributions, but the U.S. tax code is among the most generous in allowing deductions for those contributions.”

Making a Gift to Haiti That Matters

After a tragedy like the earthquake in Haiti, many people are moved to make financial contributions. For some people, as my friend and colleague John List’s work has made clear, it is simply the “warm glow” that one feels from giving, or a sense of duty borne out of social pressure, that drives giving. For others, actually making a difference in the lives of Haitians is paramount – the impact of the contribution matters.

Popcorn Charity

A movie theater in Santa Monica, California, advertises that it will give you a free box of popcorn if you donate $2 to charity.
The usual gimmick at movies is that the profits from sale of popcorn and other refreshments go to some charity.

Need to Know How Charitable You Are? There's an App for That

Chapter 3 of SuperFreakonomics, called “Unbelievable Stories About Apathy and Altruism,” takes a look at the research of John List (the Univ. of Chicago economist, not the notorious murderer of the same same — although the same chapter does cast a new light on a famous murder as well). List’s research challenges the prevailing wisdom on a few decades’ worth of lab experiments which seemed to prove that human beings are innately fair or even altruistic.

You Can Own the First Printed Copy of SuperFreakonomics: A Charity Auction

Our new book comes out on October 20.
If you’d like to own this first copy and be a good citizen at the same time, here’s your chance: it is being auctioned off on eBay, with the proceeds going to The Smile Train, a charity which performs cleft-repair surgery on poor children all over the world.

African Entrepreneurs

The problems facing developing countries, in Africa and elsewhere, are overwhelming in their magnitude and complexity. From HIV/AIDS to widespread corruption and poverty, obstacles to economic development are occupying some of the world’s brightest minds. The three individuals profiled below are tackling Africa’s most trenchant problems in vastly different ways but with a common goal: to create a new development paradigm for the continent.

| Does panhandling work better through the web? A Houston father and son team thinks so. They gave a homeless man named Timothy Dale Edwards a sign to hold while panhandling; it directed passersby to his website, In less than two months, the site has garnered $50,000 in pledges and donations. The project’s creators believe its success has to . . .

Raising Tax Rates: How to Get it Done

Between 1990 and 2005, the wage gap between the 95th and 90th percentiles of the earnings distribution rose as rapidly as between the 90th and the 50th. The rise between the 98th and the 95th was also very large (and data limitations prevent going much beyond the 98th). Thus I applauded President Obama‘s campaign promise, and budget proposal, to raise . . .

The Problem With Non-Profits: A Reader's View

We’ve said it before many times: the best feature of this blog is its readers. Case in point is a recent e-mail from one Chris Markl. It concerns philanthropy, a topic we’ve covered in various ways before on this blog: the economics of street charity; conservative vs. liberal giving; the efficiency of Smile Train; and most recently, Penn State’s THON . . .

Saving the Rain Forest One Glass of Orange Juice at a Time

I was drinking Tropicana orange juice this morning. They’ve got a clever marketing campaign. If you go to their website and type in the code on the Tropicana carton, they will set aside 100 square feet of Rain Forest to preserve on your behalf.

Are There Enough Altruists to Profit From?

While activism is virtually synonymous with “not-for-profit,” a San Francisco startup called Virgance has begun a slew of campaigns that aim to make money off of activism. As reported in The Economist, one campaign is a “green venture fund” on Facebook where users can invest their money (as little as $100), with Virgance getting a portion of the returns. But . . .

What Should South Asians Do With Their Wealth?

I have been posting on this site about the trials and tribulations of young donors. I’m in the middle of chronicling the life of Michael, an heir to a trust, who must soon begin giving away $78 million (U.S.). More on his philanthropic journey in the next post. Another group is stumbling into the American philanthropic scene. Young South Asians . . .

The Price of Advice: Chronicles of a Young Philanthropist, Part III

Readers of this blog might recall my earlier posts about Michael, a young man who is expecting to donate about $70 million over the coming decade. In the last six months, Michael has committed himself to understanding both the responsibilities and challenges of philanthropy. There was some interest in his progress among Freakonomics readers, so I thought it might be . . .

Will Mark Twain Lose the Same House Twice?

My favorite kind of museum is the one where the deeds being celebrated were actually committed on that site — the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, for instance, or the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. I also love visiting the old homes of interesting people, like Washington Irving. There’s nothing like being able to literally walk in the footsteps of someone . . .

How Pure Is Your Altruism?

We’ve had a lot of conversations on this blog about charitable contributions. For instance: where people like to give, and why; how a young philanthropist should disburse $70 million; whether to give to a street beggar, a hot dog vendor, or neither. So let’s start one more conversation on the subject. There have been a pair of huge natural disasters . . .

Michael and the $70 Million Problem (Redux)

Michael and I looked over the 500 plus comments and suggestions that were generously offered regarding his upcoming dilemma: How should I give away $70 million? We were joined by his sister, Cathy, who also has a “small sum of money” (her words) that she needs to donate in the coming decade. Apparently, she will have to give away “only” . . .

What Would You Do With $70 Million?

This is the dilemma faced by Michael, a 31-year-old who will soon inherit a large sum of money. For reasons that the truly wealthy will immediately understand, Michael has been advised to set up a foundation. “I have to donate about $70 million over the next decade,” he laughs. “Or maybe it’s $50 million. I can never remember.” I occasionally . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Germany had good intentions when it began hoarding solar panels.(HT: Saad Abdali) Hemingway’s haunt offers charity to American subprime victims.(Earlier) Student of law and economics gives it up for a career in fast food and amazing videos.(HT: David Black) Are male geishas the new handbag?

Is the Non-Profit World Teeming With Fraud?

When we recently wrote a column suggesting that philanthropies be run more like businesses, one factor we didn’t look into — but perhaps should have — was fraud. According to a Times report by Stephanie Strom, fraud and embezzlement in the non-profit sector account for a loss of $40 billion a year, or roughly 13 percent of philanthropic giving. The . . .

A Poll Tax on Selfishness

On a wintry night a few weeks ago, I was walking with Aaron Edlin across the Harvard campus when he casually claimed that the “voter’s paradox” wasn’t generally true — that it could be rational for people to vote for purely instrumental reasons. I did a double take, because the chance that my vote will change the result of any . . .

The FREAK-est Links

Obesity linked to higher cancer risks. (Earlier) The Wii continues to dominate the industry. (Earlier) Is human sexuality an “evolutionary arms race”? How should corporations approach philanthropy? Becker and Posner speak. (Earlier)