PledgeBank (again)

by Chris Bertram on August 9, 2005

I posted before about PledgeBank and, specifically, about Nicola’s pledge (see also accompanying blog ) for people to donate 1 per cent of their income to charity. Sadly, the first version of that pledge failed to attract the 400 pledgers needed. So she relaunched it with a target of 100 . With just under a couple a weeks to got she is 32 short, so come on CT readers, get pledging and help Nicola to succeed this time!



Nat Whilk 08.09.05 at 8:29 am

I pledge to continue to give over 10% of my income to charity, just like a high percentage of my neighbors in my little corner of Red America do.


jet 08.09.05 at 8:52 am

That’s true. The 10% I give helps support about 30 apartments my church runs letting familes/ex-cons/recovering whatevers stay there for up to 8 months and when they leave they get to take all the pots pans and furnishings and get their deposit and first months rent at the new place for free. Not to mention the missionaries we support that run schools for kids who would never get the chance at an education, build homes, and provide infrastructure to rural communities in Africa. And never mind the never ending stream of scam artists who come to the church every day and even though they are obviously scam artists, they never leave empty handed but purchase their pocket change by getting a little bit of How-To-Be-Happy-And-Suceed-In-Life.

So make that 31 short, sister. (Or maybe I should count 10 times :P )


Ray 08.09.05 at 9:45 am

When you guys say ‘charity’ do you mean ‘my church, which has charitable status’?


Nat Whilk 08.09.05 at 10:16 am

Ray wrote:

“When you guys say ‘charity’ do you mean ‘my church, which has charitable status’?”

Perhaps you could start off by giving us your definition of “charity”, Ray, if it differs somehow from “an organization that has charitable status”.


jacob 08.09.05 at 10:31 am

My definition of charity is something that helps people in this world (as opposed to a hypothetical next) other than the funder. So donations to your kid’s private school or to pay your pastor’s salary (both benefit you), or to save the souls of others don’t count.

All the other stuff that some churches do — like what Jet describes — sure, I think that counts as charity. And those people who support that through tithing I think should get recognition for that as charitable giving. I’d be curious what percentage of Jet’s tithe, however, goes to charity (by my definition) and what percentage goes toward upkeep of the church building, salaries, and such.

Mind you, I don’t think that churches are necessarily the most effecient way of delivering such services, but that doesn’t mean I think they can’t be charities.


Ray 08.09.05 at 10:32 am

That’s not the distinction I made (all of one post previously). I distinguished between ‘charities’ and ‘churches that happen to have charitable status’. The purpose of a charity is to help the needy. The purpose of a church is to worship god. Helping the needy may be one of its secondary functions, or it may not. The work of the organisation would not change if its legal status as a charity changed.
Its not a difficult distinction to draw, but you could always consult a dictionary if you’re having trouble.


harry b 08.09.05 at 10:38 am

nat whilk — it is nice, though, of you to rebel against the the stereotype of ‘those humble red staters’.


Nat Whilk 08.09.05 at 10:43 am

Jacob wrote:

“My definition of charity is something that helps people in this world . . . other than the funder

I’m not sure I know how to apply your definition. What percentage, for example, of my United Way payroll deduction do I get to count as charity? The portion that goes to the salaries of the United Way’s administrators certainly “helps people in this world other than the funder”, so does it count? Are food in the belly and shots in the arm the only things that count, or if some of my United Way money goes to counseling services, does that count? (Only if the counseling is provided by the irreligious?) How about money to build a boys club? To staff a boys club?


Nat Whilk 08.09.05 at 10:54 am

Harry B:

I wish I knew what your point is. If it is that it’s prideful of me to announce (under a pseudonym) that more than 10% of my income (and of the income of the majority of my neighbors) goes to charitable giving, you must feel horrible about the fact that Nicola’s 1% pledgers are announcing their actions using their real names.

Ray wrote:

The purpose of a charity is to help the needy.

To help them how?

The purpose of a church is to worship god.

Tell it to the Unitarians.


Ray 08.09.05 at 11:02 am

Okay, everything is charity. If I were to give money to the Democratic party, that would count as charity because people are in need of a Democratic government in the US, and I’m helping provide it. When I buy a record, I’m actually charitably funding culture – sure I get a record, but that’s just a token, like a wristband. Sending my kids to private school – hey, that’s for your benefit really, because my kids are going to be really smart and cure cancer. My BMW? I’m providing a public service, brightening the day of everyone who sees me drive it. My top-of-the-line stereo? Leading-edge consumers like me drive the technological developments that help _everyone_, and everyone needs better sound quality, right?


Chris Bertram 08.09.05 at 11:07 am

Enough already!

If you want to support Nicola’s pledge, support it.

If you don’t, don’t.

If you want to drone on about how terrible the Yoorpeans are, or how great America is, I suggest you do so at the FreeRepublic or similar.


jacob 08.09.05 at 11:28 am


My definition was not the least bit complicated. It had nothing to do with administrative costs, so I’m not sure why you bring those up.

If you’re funding a boys club of which you son is a member, then no, by my definition it is not charity. If you’re funding a boys club and 80% of your donation goes to paying the salary of the administrator, then you’re a fool, but at least your intentions are charitable. (Unless, of course, you or a family member are that administrator.)

In short, questions of administrative cost aren’t really germane to the issue of defining a charity–they have to do with the efficiency of that charity.


Gil 08.09.05 at 12:50 pm

Obviously, CT readers are more interested in pledging other people’s money than their own.


jet 08.09.05 at 1:05 pm

If you want to drone on about how terrible the Yoorpeans are, or how great America is, I suggest you do so at the FreeRepublic or similar.

Either there aren’t any churches in Europe and no one tithes there, or this came out of left field. Either way I don’t think Chris wants this conversation going on here ;)

On yet another tangent, doesn’t it seem like poor long term planning that Western corporations don’t lobby Western governments to donate 1% of their GDP’s to third world aid? What would the world look like if there all of a sudden were 3 billion more consumers with stable economies/governments and a hunger for new products? Maybe this 1% pledge should be to fund lobbyist to have Western governments do 1%. Talk about compounded interest on your investment.


Ray 08.09.05 at 4:32 pm

As a European, I’ve only heard of (modern) ‘tithing’ in an American context. There are regular church collections and plenty of irregular donations in Ireland, but giving 10% annually doesn’t seem to be a common practice.


g 08.09.05 at 8:50 pm

The notion of tithing is far from unknown in churches in the UK. It probably depends quite a lot on what sort of church, though; you’ll probably hear it more in independent evangelical churches than in Anglican ones, for instance. (Which doesn’t imply that there’s more generosity in the former, though I seem to recall seeing statistics that suggest there might be. I’m just talking about terminology.)

Nat: I think Harry B’s point might have been that your talk here of your own giving seems designed only to make you and the other people you mention look good, whereas Nicola’s pledge thing is designed to encourage people to give money away. That’s quite an important difference, no? You might want to take a look at Matthew 6:2-4.


M. Gordon 08.09.05 at 11:11 pm

I suppose this was probably discussed in the previous versions of this post, but does anybody seriously think that this will actually encourage others to give who aren’t already doing so? And if only people who are already giving join the pledge, what good comes of it? The whole thing just seems sort of hokey to me.


bad Jim 08.10.05 at 1:02 am

Good grief. 1%? I’ve heard accountants say they try to shame their affluent clients into contributing at least 5%.

I’ve got a standing arrangement with a local homeless shelter that gets me to 1% all by itself. Add to that my alma mater (a public university), local environmental groups buying up our disappearing coastal scrub and a few organizations more global in their efforts, and I think I reach 5% most of the time. In some years, depending on family events and election cycles, my altruistic outlays are considerably higher.


ingrid 08.10.05 at 3:39 am

I think it makes no sense to compare 1% with 5% or 10% if you don’t know what the gross and nett income of the donnators is. Given the substantially higher average personal/household income in the USA, and the much larger income inequality, and the lower tax burden (esp. on the highest income brackets), a USA-citizen whose income is on, say the 80th or 90th percentile of the income distribution should have a much easier time donating 10% of their income to charities than a continental European citizen.
To put it “country-neutral terms”: if you compare two people with the same profession in different countries, but one earns before taxation 30% more and pays 10 or 20% less taxes, isn’t it to be expected that the less-rich one thinks about donating 1% to charity while the richer one might contemplate donating 10%?


g 08.10.05 at 1:11 pm

“m. gordon”: There was a little discussion at the original pledge’s page about what to do if you’re already giving regularly; the answer seemed to be that you should only sign up if you were going to give *another* 1% on top of whatever you were giving before.

I’m inclined to agree with Ingrid, and would add that at least some of what you pay in tax goes to doing-good-for-others (<naive>that is, after all, what taxation is supposed to be for</naive>), so that perhaps it’s appropriate, as well as economically unsurprising, for rich Americans to give more :-). (But I think I’ve read that, proportionally, richer people tend to give substantially less and poorer people more.)


harry b 08.10.05 at 8:10 pm

The US has no equivalent of the Charities Commission, so many things that would not count as charitable in the UK do here — eg donations to the Heritage Foundation, the National Organisation for Women, anti-abortion and pro-chice organisations, etc. To put it simply: when the IRS or whoever gives out statistics on charitable giving there is no quality control (as there is, more or less, when the CC compiles figures in the UK). This adds to Ingrids point.

Yes, Nat, g discerned my meaning exactly. I think you did too, surely? If not, my point was truer than I suspected.

FInally, I, too, have read that charitable giving declines (as a percentage of income) as you move up the income curve. But can’t cite it.


bad Jim 08.12.05 at 2:16 am

Oh, look what dropped into my inbox:

Now it is your turn to do what you pledged. Nicola will email you soon to give you any further information you need. Why not take some photos of you fulfilling your pledge – we love pics

Right. Another photo of a middle-aged guy writing a check. I tend to think that replicating my image is a sin, so with scant regret I’ll decline the request. Could I just send in a picture of my lovely hardwood fountain pen instead?


Chris Bertram 08.12.05 at 2:26 am

I think that’s a generic pledgebank email, jim. It would more sense for a pledge involving cycling or whatever ….

Anyway, good news that the pledge succeeded!

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