Why being ‘generous’ is more important than ever

Action on Poverty.

This week is Include A Charity Week, and on Monday, 5 September, it was the International Day of Charity. With the cost of living rising, Action on Poverty CEO Brayden Howie is encouraging all Australians to remember one of the most powerful instruments of change and prosperity: generosity.

Brayden Howie, CEO of leading not-for-profit, Action on Poverty shares his expert advice on inspiring Australians to be more generous even in challenging times, and how science supports the broad health benefits of charitable giving.

As the world recognises the United Nation’s International Day of Charity on 5 September, Action on Poverty CEO Brayden Howie has encouraged Australians to remember one of the most powerful instruments of change and prosperity – generosity.

This call from Howie is extremely timely given recent findings from the Centre for Social Impact (CSI). 

A report released this week, revealed that while Australia’s top-end wealth rose significantly in recent years, philanthropic giving has not kept pace. Australia’s giving record remains relatively when low compared with other wealthy countries, including the US and UK.

In speaking to the report, Howie notes it highlights a long-standing issue in the sector. Primarily, Australia’s most wealthy can, and should do, far more when it comes to charitable giving. Whilst also recognising that charities must play a role in inspiring and supporting philanthropists to give more generously.

“Rather than berating these high-net-worth individuals for not being generous enough, it is much more effective to inspire and enable generosity. This includes inspiring individuals to be more active in their generosity, guiding philanthropists on how to make the strongest impact and removing the constraints and pitfalls of giving internationally.

“This is how Action on Poverty approaches every one of our partnerships. When high-level donors can visualize the impact of their donation and be an active part of programming, this inspires further scaling of their generosity,” Howie said.

Whilst acknowledging the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of living, Howie points to data within the NFP sector highlighting the resilience of the Australian community who have continued to give generously over the last two years. Insights from the 8th annual Australian Charities Report released in June 2022, pointed to an 8% increase in total donations in the 2020 reporting period to total $12.7 billion.

“Despite the hardships of the past couple of years, these insights reflect that the generosity of many Australians has persevered. We know from experience people enjoy sharing, and that sharing comes naturally,” Howie said.

Howie refers to the growing body of scientific research suggesting that giving generously has definitive psychological and physiological benefits. However, these benefits are paradoxical. If giving is undertaken with the purpose of getting something back, these benefits stop working.

“To experience the physical and mental health benefits of generosity, one must give selflessly.

“It is not a surprise that most people are inherently generous people, and when given the opportunity, we enjoy sharing. Whether this is sharing our knowledge, sharing our skills, sharing our things, sharing our time, sharing our concern for others, or sharing our money,” Howie said.

Howie suggests seeking out opportunities to give back within your immediate family or local community can be an easy first step to actualising the benefits of generosity. In fact, this may even serve to offset the negative impacts of current stresses and challenges faced by many within the wider Australian community.

He continues: “At a time where you may be reevaluating your ability to give in a monetary capacity, l would suggest exploring other forms of generosity – helping, lending, sharing, and giving. Start exercising giving at home, in your neighbourhood and in your community to experience the direct impacts.”

Howie recognises that giving is generative, and when individuals see generosity, they are motivated to be more generous. When they experience generosity, they feel a sense of gratitude and are subsequently inspired to be more generous.

It is local community generosity that has the power to build and be expressed as mature generosity – giving into unseen domains often where it is needed most.

“Working in the international poverty space, I often hear the comment that ‘generosity starts at home as an excuse as to why not to give overseas. Whilst generosity certainly does start at home, it grows from there,” Howie said.

“As generosity matures, it reaches further out to the unseen, into areas where our mature knowledge informs us that greater need exists. The wider this generosity reaches, the greater the impact it has on both you and those that are the target of your generosity.”

Howie’s advice to those who may question if they can afford to be generous in this way is simple – look to the profound acts of generosity expressed by some of the poorest and most disadvantaged around the world.

“Give where you feel it’s needed most, give unexpectedly, and give even more maturely than you’ve ever done before, at home and abroad.”

He continues: “It used to astound me the level of generosity I witnessed in poor communities.

“People who had very little make available to others everything they possess on this earth. My experience working among some of the poorest communities in the world and coming home to the privilege of Australia has shown that, in rich communities and poor ones, generosity abounds.

“Generosity is the norm and selfishness the exception.”

Action on Poverty works across 14 countries to connect philanthropists, corporates, non-profits, and innovators with developing communities and local NGOs across Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.

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