The Power of Giving

18 August 2016
The Power of Giving

Low income earners are more caring... At least when it comes to charitable giving, low income earners on average donated 1.41% of their annual income, whereas the “other side”, the high income earners, donated less than 0.5% of their annual income. This raises some interesting questions, Why do some of us give? What if we all gave? 

 Why do we give? 

Each year billions of dollars are donated to Cancer treatment and research. In 2009 following the Victorian Bushfires, $53 million was donated to affected families in the first week. The common theme here is the devastating impact these both had on individuals, families and friends. We often feel powerless when someone we care about is taken from us, and donating our time or our money seems like the only option. In the case of Cancer we are donating towards a cure to hopefully save a loved one, or prevent another family from going through the same hardship we have. For the bushfires we are helping people rebuild their lives from the ashes of a natural disaster. 

This is in line with a number of social psychology studies on charitable giving. Studies have repeatedly shown that we are more likely to give when we know where our efforts are going. Donating towards a family who have lost everything in a bushfire feels more effective than donating towards a general statistic about bushfires. Studies have also demonstrated that giving feels good. A study by researchers at Harvard, UBC and Simon Fraser University involved two groups of people, Group 1 were given $20 and told to spend it on someone else before the end of the day, Group 2 were given $20 and told to spend it on themselves. When their overall mood was assessed, those who spent the $20 on someone else were far happier than those who spent it on themselves. How much do you spend on yourself compared to others? 

What if we all gave? 

There are some interesting statistics surrounding our charitable behaviour: - Women donate a higher percentage of their income than men - Low income earners donate a higher percentage of their income than high income earners - Baby boomers donated more in their twenties than Millenials are donating now - 35.62% of (tax paying) Australians donated between 2011-12 
The average donation by tax payers in 2011-12 was $494, totalling $2.24 Billion. The best way to look at that, is a number of incredible Australians are supporting worthwhile causes. However, what if that remaining 65% gave just $40 each? Surely that’s not too much to ask since it’s $450 less than the other 35%, right? If the other 65% were to contribute just $40 each during the year it would add an additional $600 million to worthwhile charities and causes. 
Regardless of the size of your donation, be it time or money, it’s still more than zero. If 35% can generate $2.24 Billion, surely 65% can generate $600 million. It’s a start. 


  • Tax Deductible Giving, 2008-9, June 2012, Australian Centre for Nonprofit Studies, pp. 4, 
  • - QUT, (2009-10 figures), pp. 4, 
  • Tax Deductible Giving, 2008-9, June 2012, Australian Centre for Nonprofit Studies, pp. 32-33, - Philanthropy is a big business â€" except in corporate Australia, 
  • Benchmark for Giving Begs Wealthy to Follow, Sydney Morning Herald,