Why do you “give back”?

An interesting article in today’s Financial Times asks the question of why business leaders need to give back.

For Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, it’s because giving back was “instilled in me by my father at a young age”. For Sandy Weill, the former head of Citigroup, it’s because money has no use when you’re dead – “shrouds don’t have pockets”. For others, it’s about not spoiling your children by leaving them too much.

“First, despite their belief in free enterprise, some business philanthropists accept that markets don’t solve every problem. Not everyone has access to them,” says the report.

“Second, governments can’t provide all public goods, nor should they. Many fine museums have the name of a business benefactor – Guggenheim or Tate, for example – attached to them.

“Also, there are parts of the world where governments are barely functional. If private money does not provide medical, educational and sanitation services in those countries, no one will.”

While these are all worthy reasons – and often true – there are also more self-serving reasons why people “give back”.

Apart from avoiding tax, often it’s about your legacy: how will you be remembered, if at all? Giving back is a good way of securing your name in history.

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, explains: “Giving also allows you to leave a legacy that many others will remember. Rockefeller, Carnegie, Frick, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Duke – we remember them more for the long-term effects of their philanthropy than for the companies they founded, or for their descendents.”

The FT’s piece stirs a good debate, which we want to explore further. So, readers, we ask you: do you give back? Why do you give back? Is it for purely altruistic reasons? Leave your comments below.

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