Friday, May 02, 2003

The Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers: Two studies were recently that focused on the relative generosity of various cities. The first, by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, found that residents of Detroit give more of their discretionary income to charity than do residents of the nation's other 49 biggest cities. Here's the top five:

Detroit (12.1%)
New York (10.9%)
Fort-Worth (10.9%)
Denver (10.1%)
Wichita (9.8%)

While Detroit topped the list of cities, the Salt Lake City-Ogden region ranked No. 1 when The Chronicle analyzed giving in the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

Utah County (23.6%)
Bronx Xounty, NY (23.0%)
Davis County, UT (20.0%)
Kings County, NY (19.6%)
Price Georges County, MD (16.7%)

The likelihood of finding a helpful stranger depends strongly on where you are. This extensive study of 58 cities around the world found that people in some countries (and cultures) are indeed more helpful than others. In general, those living in richer countries appear to treat one another less kindly than their counterparts in poorer nations.

So if you were blind and needed assistance, or your leg was hurt, where would people be most helpful? According to Dr. Robert V. Levine, and his students Rio de Janiero ranks first, with Kuala Lampur last. However, the author cautions, a lot gets lost in the translation. It's fascinating to read the cultural differences of the societies where these tests were conducted, and how these influenced local residents' reactions.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

7% of Web Users Donate to Charity

7% of Web Users Donate to Charity:Everday more than 109 million Americans go online. The Pew Internet and American Life Project summarized its findings of what they actually spend their time doing online. Not surprisingly, email tops the list (93%). While "make a donation to charity" was done only 7% of the time (equal to taking a class online for college credit, but less than "making a phone call over the Internet" and "Buying groceries online" -- both at 8%), it was surpirisingly close to those who "buy or sell stocks, bonds ot mutual funds" (12%). In fact, if you view the other activities that people do online, the Internet is the place where people "use a search engine to find information" (85%), "look for a hobby or interest" (77%), "look for health/medical information" (66%) and "look for religious/spiritual information" (28%) -- activities that can be part of the philanthropic and voluntary engagement. The other silver lining in all this is that it topped "gambling" which was at the bottom (5%).

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Irvine Gives Ex-CEO a Gold Mine: The talk of California's nonprofit sector is the compensation package the Irvine Foundation's board of trustees gave to its Dennis Collins retiring CEO. The compensation package reached $717,000 one year to lavish retirement fetes, a trip around the world for he and his wife and other gifts. This came all in the midst of the foundation losing a quarter of its $1.6 billion in assets, laying off 20 percent of its staff, and cutting its grants by $20 million. We all like to think that charitable organizations and the foundations that fund them are immune from irrational exuberance and greed that afflicted so many enterprises during the dot com boom. Unfortunately, our sector has its own conflicts of interests and Mr. Collins may well become philanthropy's version of former GE CEO Jack Welch. The real question is whether this will have the staying power of William Aramony and United Way? My opinion is that the impact will be far less severe, but could result in increased scrutiny from Washington, DC, and Sacramento.

According to several legal experts, Collins' compensation warrants an audit by the Internal Revenue Service and an investigation by the state attorney general. Unfortunately, both institutions are severely understaffed and lack the financial resources to prove a charge of excessive compensation.

Email your thoughts and opinions pro and con -- I will post the most interesting comments.