Fundraising for your favorite charitable cause might change your mind.

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Beto Rally at the Pan American Neighborhood Park, Austin. November, 2018. (photo: crockodile)

The Compassionate Conservative

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

Charitable gifts, charitable trust planning, legacy planning, legacy gifts. Endowments, memorials, scholarships, chairs.

If you have ever worked with charitable financial instruments like these, if you have ever seriously fundraised for any charitable organization or cause from saving the whales to sending your local JV girls volleyball team to the championships, you’ve talked to conservatives.

Who would have guessed Beto O’Rourke is a total Scrooge?

Only anyone who has ever fundraised on a national or regional basis for any major or minor charity, that’s who. And anyone who has ever crunched the demographic numbers on charitable giving in the U.S.

Nonprofit Quarterly may try to skew it by trying to include the tax burden, which liberals generally want to increase for more social programs, but conservatives give more to charity.

No matter how many times its mentioned that charitable giving is a good tax write-off, the statistics remain:

Republicans give more to charity than Democrats.

Any way researchers try to slice it; when socio-economic factors are taken into account, conservatives give more than liberals. Conservatives give more to religious causes and secular ones, too. Conservatives are more likely to volunteer. Conservatives even give more blood.

Red states give more than Blue states.

Arthur Brooks, author of “Who Really Cares” found that conservative-led households gave 30% more than liberal-led households. A Google study was even worse; conservative households gave 50% more.

“When I started doing research on charity, I expected to find that political liberals- who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did- would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some kind of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.” — Arthur Brooks, “Who Really Cares”

The ‘liberals are just better and more charitable people in ways which cannot be easily measured’ argument is thin at best; conservatives also give the odd $20 to people on the street, hold jobs that ‘contribute’ to society but don’t pay terribly well, shovel snow from an older neighbor’s walkway.

True, conservatives give closer to home, while liberals are more likely to give to causes farther removed from their everyday reality. But quibbles about whose charitable giving recipient is more meritorious seem dubious at best, if not downright dumb.

Liberals may object to conservative dollars going to build spectacular churches; but liberal charitable dollars often support art museums, symphonies and prestigious schools that cater to the wealthy.

The argument that liberals support a higher tax burden and a publicly-supported system of caring for the poor, versus a private giving system, also sounds like a cop out. Republicans share in the tax burden, even in Blue States with higher tax burdens, allegedly, to collectively help the poor.

Also, Democrats, except for apparently Bernie Sanders, enjoy the tax benefits of charitable giving, same as Republicans. At least, they do if they are smart.

The argument that liberals don’t give more money to charitable causes because they don’t trust large organizations that pay their executives outrageous salaries and host $3,000 a plate dinners, holds less water than ever before.

Unlike the federal government and its utterly obscure spending habits, charitable organizations, to maintain their precious tax-exempt status, must maintain strict records about how they spend donor contributions.

Sites like Charity Navigator make it easy to find a great charity, and find out what percentage of your donation will actually be used to benefit those in need, and what percentage is spent on administrative expenses, fundraising and other expenses.

The statistics on who gives to charitable causes reveal something important about American politics; things are never as black and white as they seem. The compassionate conservative is real.

As is what NYT liberal Nicolaus Kristof christened the “bleeding heart tightwad.”

Bleeding Heart Tightwads

“Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.” — Nicholas Kristof, “Bleeding Heart Tightwads” New York Times, Dec. 20, 2008

It is harder to paint Republicans as evil, uncaring monsters when you realize that it’s not just Democrats who care about charitable causes.

Some Democrats care about helping the poor, some don’t.

Some Republicans care about helping the poor, some don’t.

The difference, for those who do care about helping the poor, is not in helping the poor or not helping them. The difference is the size of the role government should play in helping the poor and what role private organizations should play in helping the poor.

Thinking your privately-run charitable cause of choice will better administer your contribution to the intended recipient than the massive federal government doesn’t make you a bad person. On the contrary.

Democrats want to help the poor with tax dollars, taken involuntarily and administered, ofter poorly and without oversight, by the government. Republicans want to help the poor with their own money, voluntarily given, and administered by a private organization dedicated only to to the cause they support.

They are both right; and wrong.

A private charitable organization is directly answerable to its donors in a way that the federal government is not immediately answerable to taxpayers. That has great value. But private organizations can never bear the full social responsibility for the education and well-being of every citizen.

A healthy, well-educated population is in the best interest of public health. Not to mention the free market. That is not a private matter, but a public one. On the other hand, the federal government can’t possibly help, in some situations, as quickly and as well as a private organization can help.

Think Red Cross and FEMA.

If you are a Democrat giving to charity, you are a good person. Republicans give more because they are just showing off. Why do Republicans give more?One of the reasons Republicans give more is because they go to church.

Whether liberals like it or not, the private charitable organization piece of the philanthropic puzzle includes churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions. Small religious organizations are some of the first to respond in a local crisis, with people organizing supplies in a flood zone, aiding search efforts when a child goes missing, responding to a family that loses everything in a fire right before Christmas.

The bottom line on charitable giving and conservatives is not a question of morality, but one of constitutionality, and the role of government.

“There are four ways in which you can spend money:”

“You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.”

“Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.”

“Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!”

“Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.” — Milton Friedman

Do you really hate Republicans? How mad can you stay at people who, in spite of what the talking heads in the media say about them, routinely and voluntarily give up their hard-earned dollars to save endangered wolves in Alaska or fund cancer treatments for little kids?

Conservatives might not want to entrust everything to the federal government, but they routinely put their wallets where their hearts are. If you need to raise money for shelter animals or need winter coats for needy kids, start with conservatives.

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