[Viewpoint] It’s all about giving

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[Viewpoint] It’s all about giving

The other day I attended a ceremony for the unveiling of a gravestone at a private university for a person who had long been a sponsor of the school.

Thanks to the sponsor’s financial support, the university could overcome hardship and become a prestigious place of learning.

There must have been, and still must be, many people who provide help, even though not all of them are well known to the public.

But we should remember these acts of generosity are not just heartwarming stories. They also help societies develop.

For the past 10 years, since the financial crisis, individuals’ donations have become more and more important in society.

Particularly since 2000, thanks to tax benefits, the volume of individuals’ donations has increased significantly.

Before, it was mostly companies that made donations, but the trend has changed, and now individuals comprise a significant pool of donors.

However, for a culture of donation to take root, more people must get involved and make donations, more money has to be donated and donors have to contribute on a regular basis.

In particular, people who have accumulated vast wealth have to reflect on their finances and see how much more they can give back to society.

In short, people should make donations, no matter how small the amount is, on a regular basis.

The two types of donations are not necessarily contrary but instead they supplement each other. Therefore, they are the tasks that should be achieved at the same time.

What efforts should be made to make more individuals make donations?

First, individuals who give money to charity must be able to feel that regular donations help themselves before others.

A study on individuals’ donations for the past 10 years showed that people’s experience as volunteer workers helps foster the next generation of donors.

To induce individuals to make donations to charity more frequently, their donations must be handled in a transparent way, the survey pointed out.

We also need a social environment to encourage people of great wealth to participate in more philanthropy.

There can be flaws in the course of their accumulation of wealth but their decisions to return their precious assets back to society must be encouraged and respected.

This respect from an entire nation must be aimed at not only the one who makes a donation, but also his or her entire family, who makes it possible.

In the future, it is expected that many of those potential donors who possess a fortune will establish their own foundations to conduct activities for public good, instead of supporting nonprofit organizations.

Therefore, it is time to discuss easing regulations on the establishment and management of foundations, such as the limit on share contribution.

These regulations were introduced in the past in case such foundations had a potentially negative function.

While there is a lot for Korea to do before a culture of giving becomes ingrained in Korean society, it is truly good news that President Lee Myung-bak has decided to honor his election campaign pledge in 2007 and donate his assets to society.

It will hopefully help enhance a greater understanding and awareness about donations from the public sector, particularly individuals’ donations,

By giving away much of his wealth, the president is trying to spearhead a culture of donating to charity.

*The writer is a professor of economics at Yonsei University and the director of the Philanthropy Research Center of the Beautiful Foundation.

by Park Tae-kyu
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