In an insightful overview of the philanthropy culture in the UK, Hurd says that while we are a ‘relatively generous’ country we still have a way to go in improving our giving habits, and that we can look to the US for examples of how to do this
In the next issue of Spear’s, as part of a reflection on our 1 Per Cent Campaign and what we have learnt from it, we interview minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd. In an insightful overview of the philanthropy culture in the UK, Hurd says that while we are a ‘relatively generous’ country we still have a way to go in improving our giving habits, and that we can look to the US for examples of how to do this.
The result he says we should be striving for is a culture where giving is a ‘social norm’, encouraged by our peers, and in which each of us gives one per cent of our annual income to charity, reflecting and reinforcing the 1 Per Cent Campaign.
Currently, people in the UK give away 0.6 per cent of their annual income to charity, whereas in the US that figure is 2.4 per cent. If we were all to give away 1 per cent of our salary to charities we wish to support, says Hurd, we would close that gap: ‘If the UK could get comfortable with a social norm of giving around 1 percent, so much could be done with that money. I give away 1 per cent of my income every year, which seems fair and right.’
‘I have a sense,’ Hurd says of the US, ‘that [giving] is a social norm there, that if you’re one of the lucky ones, if you’ve been successful, there is an expectation that you give back and that you’re seen to give back. That is not the culture that has been developed in this country, and I would like to see it developed.
‘We’re all aware – and should be uneasy – that inequality has deepended in the country over a long period of time. There’s anger and frustration across the country, directed at banks and what newspaper cartoonists portray as the “fat cats”, so it’s absolutely in the interests of the country and social cohesion that those who have been lucky in life should be seen to be putting back.
‘We have to point out that people have responsibility to each other besides paying taxes, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near the States in terms of that.’
Making giving a social norm would constitute a shift in national outlook that will not happen overnight, but Hurd thinks you have to start with the networks of people that are closest to you. If workplaces became more philanthropically aware and engaged, he suggests, that would be good start: ‘We’re influenced by our peer group and our networks, and there’s no more powerful network than the workplace and the people who are around us.
‘I think if we want to convert more people to the joy of giving we have to be aware of those networks – the attitude of the employer, the attitude at the partnership table, the top tables at British businesses and the signals they send down to the orgainsations about what’s expected is very important.’