Giving Thanks and Thoughts on Giving

Giving Thanks and Thoughts on GivingAs year-end nears, we hope you’ve saved time in your busy holiday schedule to pause and give thanks. At McLean, we have so very much to be thankful for, including our relationship with you, whether you’re a client or just a regular reader of our content! To share our gratitude, we’d like to give you some thoughts – thoughts on giving, that is.

As the London-based Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) describes it, “The impulse to give, to help others if you can, is a natural human instinct.”

It’s easy for that “data point” to get buried in the barrage of news we read to the contrary. But what if we adopted the same long-term perspective for investing and personal giving alike?

If you view our global capital markets close up and colored by the heat of the moment, it’s easy to grow disheartened and lose faith in the market’s ability to prevail. That’s why we are forever stressing how important it is to consider your investments from a comfortable distance, through the clarifying lens of empirical evidence, and in the context of patiently participating in decades of rich – and likely enriching – human enterprise.

It might help to think about charitable giving from the same vantage point. Thanks to research-oriented organizations such as CAF, Giving USA, and many others, the evidence on our giving proclivities becomes clear, with much room for optimism to be found.

Myanmar, one of the world’s poorest nations, is also the most generous. In its annual World Giving Index, CAF assesses “generosity” on three levels: helping strangers, donating money to a charity, and donating time to an organization. Based on its most recent data, CAF found that Myanmar ranked highest in donating both time and money, with a whopping 92 percent of those surveyed allocating a portion of their hard-earned money to charity.

Some of the world’s wealthiest families dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Most recently, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan made headline news by informing their newborn daughter they were going to pledge 99% of their Facebook shares to a giving mission, to make the world a better place for her. has been quietly accumulating a collection of similar pledges for years from ultra-wealthy families, both famous and unknown. As Warren Buffett described in his pledge: “Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks (Berkshire Hathaway stock certificates) on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others.”

Most of the rest of us appear to be doing our bit as well. For example, according to a June 2015 Giving USA press release: “Americans gave an estimated $358.38 billion to charity in 2014, surpassing the peak last seen before the Great Recession.” The figure represented the highest level of giving measured in the organization’s 60 years of reporting on it, with more than 70 percent of the donations coming straight from individual donors. Here’s to us regular folk!

Will our giving cure all that ails the world? The evidence tells us this might be a tall order indeed. But we’ll echo one of the lesser-known participants, Indian-American businessman and 5-Hour Energy mogul Manoj Bhargava: “We may not be able to affect human suffering on a grand scale but it will be fun trying.”

We wish you and yours a prosperous and fun-filled 2016.


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