The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies

Helwig A1

 

Appendix A: Subject 1

Subject #1, February 12, 2018
White male
Lifetime resident of central Pennsylvania
35-50 years old
Has personally given $500,000 to a charity, matched by a family foundation’s $500,000 gift.

 

Dan: Give some kind of review if you can of when you may have first thought about charitable giving, altruism, or giving back. Is this something your family talked about?

Subject 1: Actually I made some notes but with that particular question. I would say my first involved in philanthropy was with the family foundation. I got involved at an early age. I don’t remember what age that was but I joined our board of trustees. There I began to learn more about giving and what it was all about. So I would say that my first exposure is probably that. 

Dan: Were you still in college or working as a professional at that time?

Subject #1: It may have been while I was still in college or shortly after.

Dan: So maybe in your mid-twenties. If you could wind back the tape and talk about whether there anything about that in your upbringing?

Subject #1: I remember my father talking about my grandfather being helpful to people. There were people that would come to their front door who were hungry and they would invite them in and have a meal with them. And I remember him talking about my grandfather…at the end of a long work day my father saying, “I just want to leave Dad,” and he’d say, “No. Wait a minute. There are kids lined up outside with their bicycles that need to be welded.” Their bikes were broken and they had brought them to the shop to be fixed. And, he said that he kind of learned it that way. I kind of learned it from my father’s stories talking about his grandfather. He would fix the kids bikes for free so that they could be on their way and use their bikes again. So that would probably be another way that I learned about it.

Dan: As you raise your own children, how does that translate as you think of yourself as a business executive and as you think of yourself as a leader? How does care for others translate how you talk about it in your own family life?

Subject #1: Well as it relates to my kids I would probably have to give a lot or most of the credit to my wife because she is a very giving individual and does influence them in that way I believe. I am thankful that she does that. But it is just through her discussions with our children of what is really important in life. Thinking that through with them and talking that through with them, help them think about it themselves. And, so just recently one of my sons….they typically get money for Christmas from their grandparents…he decided instead of spending it on himself which you typically do when you are a young teenager…which is often common although not it all cases I say for our kids it was…he decided that he was going to go out and buy some blankets and deliver them to the needy in Lancaster City. So that’s what he did.

Dan: That’s great.

Subject #1: I think he gave them out at the (REDACTED) Mission. It was something he wanted to do.

Dan: One of the things I was reading about in the philosophy of altruism is why it exists as a trait. It was posited that because we can think of ourselves as “one” and we can think of ourselves as being “someone” meaning there is a group that we belong to at the same time. So your son kind of showed that he thinks of himself but he also thinks of himself as having a greater role in society. How old is he?

Subject #1: He’s 18.

Dan: 18. If you had 100 of his peers in the parking lot out here and you had to guess how many of his peers would feel a sense of responsibility; not to the extent as your son but … How prevalent do you thing that view is in society?

Subject #1: You know I think it varies so much. I think it varies by the various generations and what they are thinking. I think it varies by their upbringing. It varies by the…it’s a nurturing question, really. And I think it’s…I think you can’t put your finger on one particular thing. I think there are so many variables. And that gets to some of the notes I was taking down. I was thinking of people who grew up very poor so they have that understanding of what it’s all about so they … Some of them tend to be very compassionate, very caring because they were in that position. If they are no long in that position now…they are like, “Yeah, now I want to share with others because I know what that feels like.” And then others who are more like, kind of, “OK, now I have all this money I don’t want to give it away. I’m afraid I’m going to lose it. Because I don’t want to be in that position that I was in many years ago.” So, again, I think it’s personality, it’s their upbringing, it’s their feelings about money and about others and it just seems like a really complicated kind of thing.

Dan: I think it is. I don’t know if it’s easier to talk about yourself or your son or your family. It sounds like your son feels like he has a sense of responsibility for others and I hear you saying that some of that comes from the example that you may have talked about and some of that may come from the values that your wife, especially, may have tried to instill in him. I just want to try to get to a point where we figure out if your son…whether the people that feel that they have to keep everything because that don’t know what may happen still feel a sense of responsibility to others.

Subject #1: And, I think some of them do; but I think it is in varying degrees. You know. “Well,” they say, “I can help a little or maybe I have more than I need, maybe I can spare a little, just ‘cause I have that I have that fear that maybe I’m going to lose it all one day.” And then the other different factors are they do have money how did they get it? Did they earn it themselves? Was it inherited? And, how does that come into play? It impacts different people differently, how they think, and how much of that is what they learned, or genetically what they were born with. How do you figure that out? That’s the question, right?

Dan: Yeah. And, it’s difficult. 

Subject #1: Another place where I learned about philanthropy was through church and Sunday School and helping others and how important that is. I would probably say that I have thought more thoroughly about karma over the past few years, just recently trying to figure out in my own mind – what’s philanthropy all about to me, not to my father or to my family? What does it mean to me? And, again, I probably give all the credit or most of the credit to my wife for really helping me think about that. And, because I grew up in a situation that is I guess unique in some ways and I think it just made me…she helped me think differently about philanthropy than how I was raised and what I saw. Because she is coming from a totally different perspective on it. An outside perspective that’s different from what I have experienced my whole life. It’s really helped me to think about it more…

Dan: Do you think you are … if you had to guess will your children feel differently about philanthropy they you would have at their age?

Subject #1: Oh, yeah. My view was different in that…or the view that I was exposed to was different than her view is I would say. What I was exposed to was more kind of…you’re giving which is helping the community but it’s also helping the business and it’s helping you personally. As I learn more about that and thought more about that…it’s not really the reasons why I want to give, you know? And it has caused me to think about it more and think about… I think I would do it differently given the choice I would do it differently and now that I am almost 50, which I will be in March, I think I can make the choice now to do it differently…so that’s what I am doing.

Dan: it’s interesting because the Prince-File study of charitable support led by two sociologists in the 1980s, devised a system of seven different archetypes of philanthropists. I don’t know if you have ever read it.

Subject #1: No

Dan: What you described first, best as described as a communitarian. Someone who believes there is a virtuous cycle involved with charitable support but also believes there is a return on investment for the individual and for the community. And, what’s good for the community is good for my business and what’s good for the business is good for the community. And that’s probably from a business perspective over the years I’ve been involved…probably the most prevalent attitude. There are dynasts … people who inherit wealth… there are people who are motivated out of their religion … there are people who are just altruists … pure altruists who believe, very strongly, that their gifts should be anonymous … that any type of connection that what they are doing takes some of the spirit out of what they are trying to accomplish in society.

Subject #1: And that’s really what I am leaning toward is the more altruistic giving. What was the first one you mention?

Dan: Communitarian

Subject #1: Communitarian has been most of my exposure. While that does benefit the community, it also does benefit the business. To me it’s not really the spirit of how I want to give. I think differently … I think that you should be giving because you want to help somebody or help an organization that can help others. And that’s the sole reason you’re doing it, maybe you feel good because you were able to help in some way. But, you’re not doing it because you want them to give you an award or you want them to put your picture all over the newspaper. Then it feels like it cheapens the giving, it cheapens the gift. But that’s just my perspective. Someone else can say no that’s not true … it’s encouraging others to give. It’s a leadership giver, it’s great for the community.

Dan: Well, all I can tell you it’s … I would encourage you to stayed principled in how you’d like that to happen because you do great things with your work. And I have met a lot of philanthropists over the years who would prefer to keep things on the low down. And there’s nothing wrong with that perspective. From my perspective there’s nothing more powerful in the world than having somebody who believes in your cause and is willing to make a gift to it and doesn’t want to be recognized for it. It both motivates other volunteers and it motivates staff members because it’s a pure example of societal benefit and it’s re-enforcing for many people like me who work in this kind of work. So thank you both for your support and for your outlook. What kind of notes did you make as you were thinking about this?

Subject #1: Sure. I kind of talked about them a little but let’s see if I missed anything . I think a touched on most of them. Just to reinforce what we already talked about … I know individuals who give generously but don’t feel the need to tell everyone / anyone about it. They just do it and then they feel good about it. They are doing it for the sole benefit of the receiver or organization in need with perhaps a side benefit that they know they are doing good and this makes them feel good helping others. This is more along the lines of the altruistic giver in my mind. And then the other interesting think I’ve observed, just serving on non-profit boards. It can kind of go the other direction where the non-profit organizations expect big donations from donors and if they don’t get what they want or expect they bad-mouth the potential donor in front of others and yet that donor may have other interests or focuses, which is totally fine. So it really seems unfair, you know, for organizations to do that. They will say well they have so much money they could easily give us X amount and a (you can enter whatever expletive / description of the individual that you want to) but it’s like well that’s kind of unfair, and it turns off other donors I think, because why would I want to give to an organization that bad-mouths potential donors? It’s just not good. As I have mentioned I have learned over the years about different ways to give and why people give. It has helped to shape my own views on giving based on my own values.

Dan: And so when you think about altruism as it relates to charitable support, what kind of calculus do you go through to kind of figure out where you feel most strongly about helping society?

Subject #1: As far as where to focus my giving, my wife and I are actually in that process right now … talking through that. And, we just set up our own foundation through the Lancaster Community Foundation. They have resources on staff that can help us with that and they are helping us to think through what the needs are in the local community and how we can be helpful. We have certain interests but we have a lot of different interests. At this point we are not saying we are targeted in this particular area. We want to learn more. What are the needs and where could we make the greatest impact. And do that in a way that is not for our own personal exposure or gain … just because we want to do it - we want to help. 

Something else I wrote down here … I believe that giving and expecting something in return is not giving. It’s more torture for the receiver of the gift of for the community, etc. in order to get more from the donor you must succumb to their wishes and without that cash you cannot operate your non-profit to help others … to a terrible position. To grovel at a donors feet in order to help the people you’re trying to help. Now if the donor is fair with their expectations then it works, I guess.

Dan: Right. That’s what you hope for.

Subject #1: That’s what you hope for. But I’m not sure that’s always the case. That’s the risk, that the donors are nor reasonable sometimes.

Dan: It’s kind of fascinating if you don’t realize this. But, I have to explain this to the staff when I hire them. You know that the federal government created the tax exempt status because they thought of non-profits as a public good. Like a park. So people who give contributions to the Red Cross or contributions to Lebanon Valley College, the money that is given is supposed to be in support of mission, an unrestricted contribution. Originally all gifts were unrestricted. And then it was like you can take a restricted contribution, like for instance to build a building, if both the donor and non-profit agree that the non-profit wants to take on that restricted activity. But it starts to get more complicated the longer you move that conversation past the original mission. So your outlook is a good one. Let me ask you a question, hypothetical, so first answer it from your perspective and from society’s perspective. If the tax code were changed tomorrow and you could not deduct gifts that were given to charity, would it affect what you and your family decide to do in terms of support?

Subject #1: No

Dan: You would do the same thing.

Subject #1: I believe I would. Because that is not why I am giving … giving to get a tax deduction. And with the donor advisory fund set up I don’t even know how all that works. So, I’m not worried about it. 

Dan: No you won’t have to worry about it because … make the contributions into the donor advisory fund…the appropriate time and them they can flow out whenever you and the non-profit decide to do that.

Subject #1: I mean I know there is a benefit to do it but I don’t think of it that way. I don’t think … that’s not why I’m doing it. Now, the business side … that’s the way I was raised … remember that’s an important piece of it and you want to capture it because it’s all part of the business kind of benefit to get out of it. So again I am changing my views as I go through time. Yeah, but that doesn’t feel right to me … that’s not way you are doing it. I guess if there is a benefit to someone who is managing that and take care of that for us.

Dan: But you’re making choices.

Subject #1: That’s right. 

Dan: So if you think you would have to project out into society and if you had to guess to me the tax code change tomorrow and gifts to non-profits are no longer deductible would it have an impact on how much society or the American society gave to non-profits?

Subject #1: That’s hard to answer. Because I think business owners realize that’s a benefit. That’s another reason they want to give. But is it the sole reason they give? Probably not. I think they give for other reasons and I think they give for visibility for their business and for themselves. I’m not speaking for myself here… In terms of business people so I think they would continue for those reasons because they still feel like… hey this is going to benefit me so in some way it’s going to benefit my business in some way. Therefore, I will still do it … I won’t be maybe as happy about it but I’m going to do it. That would be my guess, you know. And they would grumble and be upset about it but I think they would still do it because I think they would see the benefit for themselves and for their business. I guess that’s the cynical response. I would hope that they would do it because they feel it’s really good for the community and it’s good for them to give and it’s not just for business or themselves. That would be my hope.

Dan: I am just curious because like the higher education sector in Europe is different in that it’s not supported very much by charitable support because they don’t have the same set up. So there is very little philanthropic reinvestment in higher education in Great Britain or in Europe largely which are pretty much public institutions. So here we have churches and colleges and universities which are like one and two for destinations for philanthropic support. So they have done a pretty good job of creating what I will call non-mandatory transfers of wealth in America. And they pretty much serve as a kind of … if you kind of think about it over all term. They pretty much transfer wealth to another generation. Because you or your contemporaries you have already been generous. It is kind of a wealth transfer action but the beneficiaries are always a generation or two or three behind. 

Subject #1: I think it varies so much it’s hard to say and are they more apt to help someone they know then someone they don’t know. I think it depends on the person. 

Dan: What if it was you? Are you more apt to help someone that you don’t know or someone that you do know?

Subject #1: I’d do both but it’s just an interesting question. Because they are both important, but I can see someone saying well why would you help someone that you don’t know when someone you do know needs help. I can see someone saying that. And my response would be because they need help too. And yeah that’s just something good to ponder for awhile. But I didn’t answer your question. because I can’t answer your question. 

Dan: Well, it’s a difficult question to answer.

Subject #1: Ask me the question again, I’ll see if I can answer it.

Dan: I guess … if you had to come down on one side or another … Is it in our nature genetically that we are wired to consider ourselves as being part of a greater community … therefore we are wired to care if there is an accident on the side of the road we want to stop and help or if see an advertisement on television for hurricane victims we want to help? Or whether we are wired to be predisposed to keep our hands in our pockets most of those times?

Subject #1: You know, I think most people want to help. I think most people, not everyone, would want to help. It leads me to think about things that I was told when growing up about helping people that are in situations like that (accident on the side of the road). And I not sure it was all good … I heard things like, “Well if you do something wrong you could be sued and given your position in the community or business or whatever that’s a big deal.” You know, so I don’t think comments like that helped me to want to help others. Do you know what I mean? So in general I think we are … naturally most people would help others. But I think we can get information from others that may rethink that.

Dan: So there’s an innate, plus nurturing component. But if you had to guess about nature, you’d guess from a natural perspective we understand that we are part of community that we could benefit from helping one another. 

Subject #1: Yes

Dan: We can be taught both how to be charitable or altruistic and also how to be cautious when helping others, that it could backfire, impact you in a negative way.

Subject #1: Right

Dan: Well, that’s a fair answer. There, we solved that problem.

Subject #1: And, like I said I am learning a lot from my wife because she is a situation where she didn’t get that those kind of messages or that kind of feedback. So it’s more freeing, I’d say, to just be able … if you want to help somebody help them. Don’t worry about that so much. Because that’s what matters, helping others.

Dan: It is. Anything else you would like me to know about this as I am thinking through this?

Subject #1: Just that the learning side is important and we can continue to learn about philanthropy and expand our horizons and again, my wife is helping me to do that with the adoption of our two children from China and learning about the needs of orphan Chinese children and medical needs. And, our one daughter was actually helped by an organization, Love Without Boundaries. People in the United States raised money for her heart surgery. And she had life-saving heart surgery in China before we adopted her. And we didn’t know this until we got her picture and learned later that she had been helped by this organization. They saved her life and now she’s our daughter. I mean that’s incredible. I mean it’s just amazing to me. So we have helped that organization. And plan to do more of it. But it just expanded my whole … because my whole focus growing up was communitarian - you would never go outside your community. Why would you do that - why would you help people outside your community? That just doesn’t make any sense. 

Well maybe it does … maybe it does make a lot of sense. In my case it makes a ton of sense. So again, it’s figuring those things out and expanding our horizons and learning. It’s been great for me, at least.

Dan: Well the connectedness is something sometimes you can miss. You know, you just don’t understand the connectedness until you get outside your local zone. 

Subject #1: Yes. And then you realize … wow we are all connected in some way.