Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
Charitable giving has been tied to the end of year holidays since at least 1843 when Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol.” Who doesn’t remember the opening scene when the charity collectors show up at Scrooge’s office and ask for a donation?
"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."
Scrooge replies that he believes the government programs—prisons, workhouses, and poverty laws—are sufficient to take care of those in need. They are not. As Scrooge discovers that evening when visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future: charity is still necessary, especially at the end of the year.
It is through charitable giving that Scrooge understands the meaning of the holiday.
And he did it without any concern for end-of-year tax-deductions.
Not that these deductions aren’t important, too. Maximizing tax-deductions is a practical consideration that should be taken into account when making a donation, but it isn’t the main reason most people give at the end of the year.
A number of studies over the past few years have analyzed why people give to charity and rarely does “tax-deduction” even make it into the top ten. People give because they truly want to help people in need, and they give to make a difference in their community, and they give to support causes they believe in. We give because we believe it makes a difference. And we give because it makes us feel good.
Yet, even though we know it is the right thing to do, many of us don’t give throughout the year and choose instead to wait until the holidays. And that’s okay. If you’ve waited until now to make your annual charitable contributions, you’re in good company! Almost a third of all charitable giving takes place in December, and for many organizations, this year-end giving accounts for anywhere from a quarter to half of their donations.
We give at the end of the year because it makes us feel good to give during the holidays. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, or something else (Festivus?) during these cold, dark days at the end of the year, we are all celebrating our community and sharing gratitude with our loved ones.
Tax-deductions are nice, and appreciated, but that’s not why Scrooge gave. He gave because it made him feel as light as a feather, happy as an angel, merry as a school-boy, and giddy as a drunken man. He gave because it made him feel good.
“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!’’
All of us at PennFuture thank you for your giving, and wish you peace, love, and joy during this wonderful holiday season, and a happy new year!
Recognizing that the holidays are also about gift-giving, as well as charitable giving, here are a few book suggestions for those on your list: