Who Really Cares?

by Jeff Wilklow, Senior Consultant

As part of the continuing Advanced Executives Breakfast Series sponsored by Campbell & Company in conjunction with the Greater Washington DC chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, we were pleased to host preeminent public policy expert, Dr. Arthur Brooks on October 26.  Dr. Brooks is professor of public administration at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and has done extensive research and writing on the topic of charity and civic life.  He offered many provocative revelations on the philanthropic nature of various groups on the political and ideological spectrum, as presented in his latest book, Who Really Cares -- America’s Charity Divide - Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.

Dr. Brooks’ research has provided insights into the forces behind much of American charity. A self-professed social and political liberal, he was surprised to discover that the characteristics that motivate the most charitably inclined among us are more aligned with conservative values, including strong families, church attendance and the belief that individuals, not government, offer the best solution to social problems. The more thoroughly he reviewed the data in an attempt to discredit this thesis, the stronger it became.  In the end he was forced to conclude that the preconception held by many, including himself, that the political Left is more compassionate than the Right, is a myt—and in fact the opposite is true.

Beyond showing us who the real philanthropists are and are not in our society, Dr. Brooks’ work takes an important look at why charity matters a great deal – to donors, to recipients, and to society as a whole.  Through careful analysis of the data, Dr. Brooks makes a compelling case that people who are charitably inclined become more successful – that charitable behavior is financially rewarding to the donor.  Even more importantly, he shows that giving is a critical aspect of our nation’s economic prosperity, and is fundamental to our happiness, health and ability to govern ourselves as a people.

Whether you are personally predisposed to agree or disagree with Dr. Brooks’ findings, his animated review of the data is persuasive and thoroughly engaging.  Who Really Cares is a must read for anyone in the business of philanthropy, and should be required reading for architects of social policy as well.