PledgeBank (more)

by Chris Bertram on July 10, 2005

I blogged “the other day”: about the “PledgeBank”: project, and, specifically in favour of “one particular pledge”: :

bq. I will give 1% of my gross annual salary to charity but only if 400 other people will too.

Time is running out, as this pledge expires on the 23rd of July. So if you thought about it at the time, but didn’t get round to signing on, or would like to now, visit the site.

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07.31.05 at 4:15 pm



y81 07.10.05 at 5:18 pm

Is this some kind of European thing? Most Americans give a lot more than that already, I believe. Certainly most believers do.


sennoma 07.10.05 at 6:46 pm

Certainly most believers do.

That’s what my religious friends tell me, but none of them have any hard data to back it up. I know they (the friends in question) give well over 1%, but “most believers”? With 80% of the US population identifying as Christian, shouldn’t the relevant coffers be overflowing?

Don’t mean to snark — genuinely curious. How much do people set aside for charity on average, and how does that vary by religious belief? I’m not even sure where to start looking for such numbers.


g 07.10.05 at 6:50 pm

Plenty of people in Europe give substantially more than 1% of their income to charity, some of them (as you suggest) for religious reasons. The page describing that pledge suggests that people with an existing habit of proportionate giving treat it as an invitation to give 1%-of-gross more than they currently do. Seems reasonable to me.


ingrid robeyns 07.11.05 at 2:16 am

If it is the case that Europeans give on average less (percentagewise) than US-citizens, then there might be a straightforward explanation for that: Europeans pay much more taxes, a substantial part of which is used for “social purposes” (both at home and abroad). In the USA, charities have to cover this, because the government does signicantly less for the disadvantaged.

With the recent media attention to development aid, the (Dutch)newspapers printed some recent figures on how much each OECD country spends on development aid – well, of course, if your government gives 0,1% rather than 0,6% percent of GDP, surely you’d be more inclined to give more to development charities! (And I’m sure the same argument can be made for domestic charities too).


g 07.11.05 at 4:25 am

A very quick search turns up which is a brief report of a survey done in 1998, covering (a probably biased subset of) evangelical Christians in the UK. It was a phone survey with some obvious opportunities for selection bias. I would expect the biases to make the survey overestimate giving rather than underestimate it.

Apparently “the average donor gives 5% to the church and 2% to Christian charities”. reports on a survey of “Americans”, presumably meaning US citizens, earlier this year. 83% of the population surveyed donated at least some money to “one or more non-profit organizations”. The average amount donated was $1232, which they say indicates that the “typical” individual gave 3%. (I bet this figure is just the ratio of two means, which isn’t a great estimate for the mean of the ratios — which would be what we actually want.)

This survey found that most of that money went to churches; that evangelical Christians (defined rather narrowly) gave more to their churches than any other group; that about 6% gave 10% of their income to non-profit organizations, apparently almost all of them to “churches and parachurch ministries”.

There are various things in that survey’s numbers that look a little peculiar to me; perhaps they’re all artefacts of sampling errors. Note also that the organization that carried out the survey has a definite ideological slant of its own.


engels 07.11.05 at 7:34 am

Is this some kind of European thing? Most Americans give a lot more than that already, I believe. Certainly most believers do.

Translation: In response to Chris’ post – I intend to ignore it. Praise the Lord!


f&w 07.11.05 at 10:58 am

Uhm, I give 1% of my salary, pre-tax, to Medecins Sans Frontiers through my job, in addition to (on average) another .5% to 1% post-taxes. I’m American, but I’m an atheist. So it ain’t just the believers.


Haruspex 07.11.05 at 2:16 pm

Ingrid Robeyns might wish to reexamine her assumptions. Perhaps many Americans do not share the same priorities as Europeans as to where funds should go (the example of development aid she cites is an excellent one). Indeed, one reason why many Americans may prefer their system to the European one is that, with lower taxes, they have more money left to give to the charities of their own choice, rather than to those chosen by politicians. In other words, to the extent Europeans give through their taxes, then any individual European is giving to causes chosen by their governing parties rather than by himself or herself. To the extent that this giving is backed by the full police power of the state (through enforcement of the tax laws), might one also question whether it can be characterized as “giving” at all?


John Quiggin 07.12.05 at 3:50 am

It’s my impression that American believers give substantial, tax deductible, amounts to churches, but that the amount flowing to what non-believers would regard as charity is smaller than the tax subsidy flowing to what is, in essence, a club membership. I’ll dig out the figures and do a proper post on this sometime.


Haruspex 07.12.05 at 3:55 am

John Quiggin is setting up a false dichotomy. In my experience, a significant proportion of donations to churches is aggregated for other charitable works, such as food banks for the poor, assistance to the disabled and elderly, and even overseas development aid. So any attempt to break out what goes to churches and what goes to “what non-believers would regard as charity” will understate the latter.


engels 07.12.05 at 7:39 am

Since churches could not survive without “charity” in this (debased) sense it’s not surprising that churchgoers would “give” more under this definition. Giving to your church is vital to the church meme: without it the meme would have died out long ago.


Kragen Sitaker 07.13.05 at 1:00 pm

What’s “charity” in the context of this pledge? If 399 people pledged to donate 1% of their income to Hamas, would you be happy?

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