Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Impact of Politics on Philanthropy




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Philanthropy can be defined as the desire to help others, whether that be through gifting money to a charity, donating food or volunteering. Notable philanthropists of the 21st Century are Warren Buffet (CEO and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway), Michael Bloomberg (CEO of Bloomberg L.P.) and Bill Gates (CEO and Chairman of Microsoft); who have all given generously to charities and non-profit organizations over the years. Although, to be honest, they are billionaires that can spare a buck or two. Not that that lessens the great impact that it has of course.


Politics and philanthropy should in theory go hand in hand. No matter where you are from in the world, country leaders and those in political parties are often shown to do their bit for charity, whether that involves setting up institutions that help non-profit organizations raise money for worthy causes through government funding or promoting the need for people to give to them.

Unfortunately, however, this is not always the case. There is a constant outcry demonstrating the difference in opinion of its importance between political parties. These conflicting ideologies result in charities missing out.


The University of Southern California, a number of news articles and websites have discussed how since President Trump has come to power, his administration has failed to promote the need to donate to charities and other non-profit organizations. This deprioritization of philanthropy is also threatening the organizations’ very existence.


This impact is also probably greater felt, due to how past administrations have acted towards philanthropic organizations and the example which was previously set. Leadership in this area needs to come from the top and trickle down to wealthy individuals in the country, who in turn then feel pressure to be seen to be engaging in philanthropic activity. When this ‘top-down’ example isn’t being set, the pressure is effectively ‘off’ for the wealthy and general society will feel more pressure to contribute.


The same can be said for across the pond, however with the Lobbying Act being introduced. Rules have been put forward limiting how the charities receive funds, as well as making campaigners cautious or unsure of how to be heard. Whilst introduced to maintain the integrity of elections, the Lobbying Act, in reality, is seen to be stifling charities activities in the year leading up to general elections. The uncertainty behind what the Electoral Commission entails is also a key factor in this.  


This ‘silencing’ of the need for philanthropic activities has resulted in people realizing the desperate need for non-profit organizations, making them take the matter into their own hands. Many also have the opinion that the current rhetoric of politicians around the globe is to divide the nation by building walls and leaving unions, therefore they believe that the best way to achieve philanthropy is through coming together. Without a doubt, donating money to a charity is a wonderful thing to do and a great way of playing a part in this. No matter what your wealth or place in society; whether you live out ion a farm in rural countryside or in a million dollar mansion, helping those who need it more than you is important.


From an economic standpoint, it has been argued the aid that a government would give to a charity or social organization would not help as much as donations from wealthy individuals (usually by people in favour of lower taxes!). However, this has been shown by studies to be untrue, with the evidence showing that private philanthropy cannot compete with the provision of government aid, and political prioritization; further solidifying the role and responsibility that governments and politicians have in philanthropy. It’s not just ‘looking good on tv’, these decisions make a real difference, bigger than private individuals can achieve by themselves.


Politicians and those in government have a platform for demonstrating the importance of philanthropy in society, and moreover, the power and influence to ensure that when these activities and donations are made, that the full positive effect is felt by the charity. Therefore, they should do what they can to promote and ease the path to philanthropy. Whether it’s through more formal public speeches or informal social media posts (which in the current age would be a better form of reaching out to the younger generation), every little helps when displaying how crucial it is.


The key to creating a society where philanthropy can thrive is not solely the job of politics, but it is certainly the realm where this battle is won or lost. Policy, public perception, and the activities of politicians are likely to be the deciding factors between creating a hostile, or a nurturing environment for philanthropy.

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