The Science of Charitable Giving

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

A woman makes a donation into a Salvation Army kettle outside a Giant grocery store November 24, 2012, in Clifton, Virgina. Bell ringers William Schmidt (L) and his grandson Bubba Wellens (C). (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty)

Did you know that “Giving Tuesday” was yesterday?

The nation's charities have decided to get a piece of the spree of days dominated by shopping—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and of course, Thanksgiving itself. So they’ve laid claim to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, dubbing it Giving Tuesday.  

Last year, Giving Tuesday brought $10 million in dollars of donations to charities, though it's a small sum compared to the billions of dollars spent on all those other shopping days.

Peter Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton University, thinks one of the reasons Americans don't give more to charity is because of how we think about giving. He teaches a course on charitable giving at Princeton, and is the author of "The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty." He joins The takeaway to discuss why Americans don't give more.


Peter Singer

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [7]


The professor is right on one hand, that some Americans have enough money to share with those in need; I see regular people letting their cars run for minutes while they go into a store, or hotel - having little regard for the environment, or saving some money. Seems little focus on sacrifice, but more a sense of entitlement and yes, "excessive consumption."

I make very little money, and like Larry from NY, most of my giving is given, face to face, person to person. Sometimes I give money, but I never lend. "No strings" is the way all giving should be, even when the person says they'll pay me back.

I do feel good when I listen to someone who has grievances ~ even tho I don't have a way to solve their problem. Listening just takes time, empathy, and the awareness to know not all of us gives completely for results. Only those who have as much money as Bill Gates, or Buffetts look for positive results, and kudos to them. The rest of us will be giving compassionately, only, because that is our spiritual build.

Dec. 11 2013 02:01 PM
Pam from Flathead Valley, MT

Not sure why you keep referring to income inequality as potentially being Obama's legacy. If this issue is parked at the doorstep of any one person, it should be John Boehner, who refused to even allow votes on issues that might help the neediest among us, rather than the greediest.
Or maybe consider "crediting" Chief Justice Roberts & Citizens United.

Dec. 05 2013 12:55 PM
Gerry Boyce from South Orange, NJ

Thank you for having Professor Singer on. I do my own little bit of philanthropy because it's fun. I have a small Charitable Fund set up through a brokerage firm, which allows me to play Bill Gates and make small grants anytime I want. I usually give locally. However, Professor Singer's comments have given me food for thought. I've gone to his website and am considering making grants to one or more of the organizations that are listed.

Dec. 04 2013 09:59 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Peter Singer is a monster, why ask him about charitable giving? How about refraining from killing unborn children?

Dec. 04 2013 03:54 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Peter Singer is a monster, why ask him about charitable giving?

Dec. 04 2013 03:52 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

How does Professor Singer feel about people who give charity as a tax break or give "the bum" a couple of dollars so that they can feel good about themselves.

What about the person who will give time to another human being who is depressed and needs some attention? Isn't that charity if you give of yourself and help someone, even if you feel worse afterwards?

Damn, I do that kind of charity all the time. I live in a city of crushed souls who just want someone to listen to them.

Dec. 04 2013 02:37 PM

i like this show very much - i give to SPCA for gifts. the reason is simple - God made them first -- and the longer i live, i think, God should have stopped at the animals - they give true love - with no strings, loyalty- without political ties, and live a eco friendly life. all my friends have a pet - so that is the ties us all , we love God's creatures - and feel the need to be their voice in protection .
Merry Christmas

Dec. 04 2013 09:38 AM

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