Hat’s off to this post from the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s blog Money and Mission:
We must become familiar with the cultural influences that affect how people and institutions aggregate, deploy, and discuss money. The notion of wealth itself can be a cultural construct. For example, some Native American or indigenous peoples operate in a “gift economy” in which people give valuable goods and services to others without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. Wealth in this case is derived as much from distribution—be it money, time, or knowledge—as it is from accumulation.
Other examples of how giving works in different cultures:
- A system of small loans, called susu accounts, have thrived in Africa and the Caribbean long before microfinance.
- Chicano, Latino, Hispanic communities traditionally address philanthropic disbursement in their communities through their churches.
- A “clan” of families makes similar decisions in Asian cultures.
- African-Americans, who have one-fifth the “wealth” of their white counterparts, have a long history of giving.
Dione Alexander does a wonderful job identifying non-Western cultures’ attitudes about money and how that resonates in their giving. The next question is: if Western societies (including my American one) revolve around wealth-driven capitalism, what does that say about our giving?