chapter  9
17 Pages

Charity and giving

Taxes are a compulsory levy to finance services. Charges often amount to the same thing. Fees are payments made, more or less voluntarily, depending on the circumstances, for a service you buy. A gift or donation is, at its best, a payment made voluntarily so that a service may be given to others. Of course, it would be naive to claim that all gifts are made with no thought of any benefit that might accrue to the individual or to his or her family, now or at some future time, or to deny that gifts are often a reflection of gratitude for past services rendered to a member of the family or the donor themselves. Relatives may make a gift to a local hospital that has cared for a loved one. Parents or relatives often make donations to their old public school or college as some repayment for what it has done for them, or in the hope that it may give their child a better chance of entry! Many volunteers who give their time to voluntary organizations do so because it will look good on their CV or help them to be selected for a social work course! Many donors do lay down more or less stringent rules about the use of their funds, and these are legally binding on the body that receives them. They do not change as society changes and this may be an embarrassment to the organization or trust that administers such income. It is quite wrong to associate ‘charity’ or voluntary giving exclusively with ‘voluntary’ or non-profit organizations, or to assume that most of these organizations’ income comes from donations. It does not. As we shall see later, National Health

Service hospitals obtain an important share of all monetary gifts and other voluntary help. But while public provision does not preclude charitable giving, the existence of the profit motive in any service usually does. It seems improbable that donors will be moti­ vated to give time or money to a profit-making hospital or home on the grounds that it would be difficult to ensure that the patients or residents received the benefit, rather than the owner. This is a kind of market failure. The market and for-profit organizations cannot accommodate giving and voluntary action because it will always be in the interests of a profit organization to use its dona­ tions to undercut costs and increase its profit margins (Hansman, 1980, 1987). It is not surprising to find that giving is largely con­ fined to non-profit and public organizations.