Surprising Facts About Charity in America

Over the holidays I found myself reading Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism by Arthur C. Brooks.  Some article I read lead me to this book and it is an eye-opening must read

Arthur C. Brooks is a Seattle native, currently living in Syracuse, New York and is the President of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.  He was raised liberal and is a self-proclaimed independent.  This is noteworthy because his findings on who gives to charity and who doesn’t in America is not very flattering to liberals.  Brooks himself was so shocked by the data his research yielded that he re-ran his analysis and gathered new data.  as he says, “nothing worked.  In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”

Here are just a few of Brooks’s findings:

  • “The working poor in America give more of their money – not less – to charity than middle class people.”
  • Religious Conservatives “are as charitable, or more so, than any other part of the population, including to secular causes.”
  • “Secular liberals are poor givers.”  “They give away less than a third as much money as religious conservatives, and about half as much as the population in general, despite having higher average incomes than either group.  They are 12 points less likely to volunteer than religious conservatives, and they volunteer only about half as often.  They are less generous than others in many informal ways as well.  For example, they are significantly less likely than the population average to return excess change mistakenly given to them by a cashier.”

Are you shocked? 

I was and wasn’t.  I’ve personally had the experience of sitting at a charity function at a table with 8 other attorneys and been the only person (I’m counting Jim and me as one here) in the group to “raise the paddle” to give money to that charity even though I made less that the other 8 people at the table, the charity was not one in which I am actively involved, and the remaining 8 persons are self-professed democrats.  Huh?  So I wasn’t particularly shocked about the secular liberal finding (although I do know exceptions to this rule). 

The fascinating part of Brooks’s findings is the why.  Why does the working poor give more?  Why do liberals give less money to charity?  Why does this all matter?

I also found that after reading this book, the way I thought subtly changed.  On a flight back from Vegas someone from the flight before had left a unopened, gift-wrapped box of cookies on her seat.  Did the person who sat at that seat turn them over to the flight attendant, even though we were 15 minutes from take-off and they could have been sent into the terminal?  NO.  She loudly marveled about her good luck and kept them.  When we arrived in Seattle, SHE TOOK THEM HOME!  I sat there – appalled – and thought, “she must be a secular liberal.”

Please take a look at Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism and let me know what you think.  I would love to hear your take-aways from this book.

Food Bloggers Changing the World: Ancient Fire Wines

Jason Phelps was only 29 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer.

He recovered. But many friends he made during his treatment and recovery and in the years since, didn’t. Believing not enough resources were being directed at cancer, he decided to do something about it and started fundraising.

In 2004, Jason made 120 apple pies by hand and sold them to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. He sold out and raised $2,400. In 2005, he had to impose a limit on the number of pie orders he could take because the demand was just too much for a solo baker.

Jason also directed his fund-raising efforts toward the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life. In only a few years, Jason and his New Hampshire Relay for Life Team have raised $72,000. They are the team to beat in fundraising dollars year in and year out – a fact that inspires plenty of friendly competition yielding more and more dollars to fund the fight against cancer.

Jason fundraises both through traditional ask and you shall receive means and nontraditional means. He utilizes his culinary and wine making passions through events such as chocolate parties and wine tasting fundraisers. He raises awareness by recounting these events on his blog Ancient Fire Wine Blog.

Jason’s commitment to the fight against cancer is impressive. His enthusiasm is just plain contagious. But it’s his motivation that really put things in perspective for me when I talked to him. When I asked him what motivated him, he said simply “I’m living in the bonus round.” Enough said.

Please help Jason in his fight against cancer by donating to his Relay for Life Team.  Just click here.

Food Bloggers Changing the World: Peace, Love and French Fries

The month of December always reminds me of how much we have and others don’t. It also reminds me of how many are not engaged in paying it forward or giving back. So, throughout this month I want to tell you about a few of those who are.

Last month I put out the call to food bloggers to tell me if they were using their blogs in some way to give back to others – several answered the call. These are regular people, just like you and me. They are not rich – by any political party’s definition. What they are, are people who were inspired to do something, little or small to help others.

In February, Lindsay Neuner, the author of Peace, Love and French Fries began her Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is campaign. Each month she chooses a charity to benefit and she gives that charity – out of her own pocket – $.01 for every page view her blog receives that month and $.50 for every comment. So far, she’s given back more than $540.

Lindsay told me if she had planned her charitable giving at the beginning of the year she never would have budgeted so much – she simply didn’t think she could afford it. But she discovered that by giving $40, $50, $60, even $75 per month it was actually possible. Giving back is “more doable than most of us realize” she said. “If you “break it up, it’s not overwhelming.”

Lindsay’s efforts don’t stop at making a donation. She spends hours pouring over newspaper ads and cutting coupons to make her donation stretch as far as possible. In July she donated $76.49 for a school supply drive. With her savvy shopping she used that $76.49 to buy:

• 108 pencils
• 8 boxes of crayons
• 24 glue sticks
• 6 boxes of colored pencils
• 5 boxes of markers
• 66 erasers
• 4 backpacks
• 33 notebooks
• 58 folders
• 16 packages of loose-leaf paper
• 8 1-inch binders
• 9 scissors
• 6 composition notebooks
• 13 rulers
• 8 bottles of glue
• 16 highlighters
• 100 black and blue pens
• 60 mechanical pencils

With $76.49can you believe it!?!

Others have been inspired by Lindsay’s efforts and matched her donations, multiplying the difference she’s already started to make. When I spoke with Lindsay, she said many things that stuck with me but the most poignant was this: “Everyone has $.49 under the couch and that buys a hungry person a can of peas.”

Every little bit really does make a difference. Carry an extra dollar to give to the homeless person on the side of the road. Give your take-out leftovers to the hungry guy on the corner. After talking with Lindsay and others, I passed a homeless woman on my way to the Farmer’s Market – I bought my favorite market indulgence – a cherry strudel and gave it to her (with $5) telling her that she looked like she needed a treat – a huge smile lit up her face and I knew that though it didn’t solve her housing or hunger issues, that moment of indulgence made her life a little bit better if only for a moment – it also improved mine.

Join Me Saturday November 20 at Will Bake For Food

If you’re in Seattle on Saturday, November 20th, you can get your hands and mouths on 60 types of tasty treats made by Northwest food bloggers.  Jenny Miller of Rainy Day Gal and Jenny Richards of Purple House Dirt have organized an epic bake sale – aptly named Will Bake for Food – to benefit Northwest Harvest. 

The Inspiration

On a cold day in September, Jenny Miller was driving back from the grocery store when she came to a red light and saw a woman begging with her two small children.  “As I was sitting in my warm car with my daughter and a month’s worth of diapers and food in the back, it was heart breaking” Miller told me.    She started thinking about what she could do to help.  As a food blogger, Miller thought of the food blogging community and what would inspire them.  A bake sale benefitting Northwest Harvest seemed like a perfect fit and Will Bake for Food was born. 

The response from the food blogging world was instantaneous and overwhelming.  So much so that Miller and Richards actually had to turn bakers away once the volunteer baking number hit 60.  Now the success of Will Bake for Food depends on the public turnout.  If successful, Miller and Richards are committed to making it a yearly event.

The Cause

Northwest Harvest supplies over 300 food banks and food programs across the state of Washington.  93% of its budget goes directly to food distribution.  It’s mission is “to provide nutritious food to hungry people statewide in a manner that respects their dignity, while fighting to eliminate hunger.”

The Bake “Sale”

Here’s how it works:  You bring non-perishable food items or a monetary donation and an appetite.  In exchange for your donations, you receive tickets that can be used to grab some 100% homemade and donated baked goodies, coffee and cider.  Simple.  For a list of the items Northwest Harvest needs most, click here.

I’m baking my cranberry-chocolate chip cookies to give away and Jim and I loaded up a box full of peanut butter, pasta, soup, and other staples to donate because I can’t wait to try out everyone’s treats.  I’ve heard molecular gastronomy will be employed by some and there will be plenty of gluten-free goodies as well.  Plus, with so many food bloggers involved it promises to be a fun event.

When and Where

University Congregational Church
Ostrander Hall
4515 16th Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Saturday, November 20, 2010.  10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. or until all the goodies are gobbled.

Hope to see you there!

Wanted: Charitable Food Bloggers

Food Bloggers suffered some bad publicity lately due to a Marie Claire article that questions whether “food and fitness obsessed” bloggers may be setting dangerous examples. My reaction – besides being surprised that Marie Claire published such a sensationalist article – was what about all the good that food bloggers do?

Aside from the sharing of recipes, which helps people learn how to cook, push their culinary boundaries and steer through tricky dietary restrictions such as gluten-free, food bloggers also are a charitable bunch. Bake sales for hunger and charity rides and runs are not uncommon. Blogging about important issues also abounds.

For my nonfiction writing class, I must write an 800-word article by term end. On the heels of the Marie Claire article, I’ve chosen to write about philanthropical food bloggers. I already have a few bloggers on my list, but am looking for more. If you are or know a food blogger who has raised money for charity through his/her blog or by spearheading a local bake sale or other charitable effort and would agree to be interviewed for my article, please email me at The article is for class at present, but I may seek publication.

Thanks for your help and Happy Friday!
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