The eight degrees of charity

Maimonides was a 12th century Jewish teacher who is new to me but old hat for those who know anything about Judaism and philosophy. While he writes on a wide breath of topics, it is some of his writing on charity that stands out to me this time of year. It was brought to my attention on the podcast "Question of the Day" (trailer below).

Here are the eight degrees of charity that Maimonides puts forth. Just a note that each degree is "greater" than the preceding degree.

8. When donations are given grudgingly.

7. When one gives less than he should, but does so cheerfully.

6. When one gives directly to the poor upon being asked.

5. When one gives directly to the poor without being asked.

4. Donations when the recipient is aware of the donor's identity, but the donor still doesn't know the specific identity of the recipient.

3. Donations when the donor is aware to whom the charity is being given, but the recipient is unaware of the source.

2. Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. Communal funds, administered by responsible people are also in this category.

1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.

What is interesting to me is degree number two. I have heard much of my time in church work that many people value giving in a way that they know what the money will be used for and they will not give or not give as much if they do not know what the money will be used for. That is to say that for our time it seems we do not value Maimonides' degree #2 as highly has he did.

Could it be that we are missing something in our persistent insistence in having the final say on where the money we donate goes? Could we it be that we are eroding away social Trust when we push aside the second degree for a "lesser" degree? 

If you are reading this you are ahead of the internet

The internet is beginning to give some traction to the micro-giving that the internet used to deem impossible (Listen to or read this report). So if you are reading this blog, then you are ahead of the internet because a few months ago, this blog has been accepted as a content creator for the "CentUp" micro-giving project.

So you see, when you create a CentUp account, you not only get 100 free cents to share, but you also are ahead of the internet. You will be a trendsetter. You will be saying "no" to an ad based internet. You will, in a small way, be the change nudging the world into a more generous culture.

Are you willing to create an account with just $2 just to try it out? 



Stuff you should know and why - pt. 4

And if you do not take the eighteen minutes to listen to Pallotta at least hear these three quotes:

We have a visceral reaction to the idea that anyone would make very much money helping other people.Interesting that we don't have a visceral reaction to the notion that people would make a lot of money not helping other people.You know, you want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We'll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria,and you're considered a parasite yourself.

Connected to this quote above, there is a great little bit Pallotta has about rich people getting the title "philanthropist" when they give $100,000. It might be worth noting that the title "philanthropist" is not given to the directors, leaders or paid staff of a non-profit. 

Now a little bit on the curse of "overhead":

So we've all been taught that charities should spend as little as possible on overhead things like fundraising under the theory that, well, the less money you spend on fundraising,the more money there is available for the cause.Well, that's true if it's a depressing world in which this pie cannot be made any bigger. But if it's a logical world in which investment in fundraising actually raises more funds and makes the pie bigger,then we have it precisely backwards, and we should be investing more money, not less,in fundraising, because fundraising is the one thing that has the potential to multiply the amount of money available for the cause that we care about so deeply.

And finally, 

So the next time you're looking at a charity, don't ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams,their Apple-, Google-, Amazon-scale dreams, how they measure their progress toward those dreams,and what resources they need to make them come true regardless of what the overhead is. Who cares what the overhead is if these problems are actually getting solved? 

The final quote is a reason why I connect to the global church known as the United Methodist Church which has four "Amazon-scale" dreams