Guess who gives the most during a downturn?

BTW: Along the lines of this article, consider giving $5 to a charity this month. Every bit helps, or as the badass Pamela Benson-Owens puts it: “Even a donation that jingles is a donation.”

I spent yesterday afternoon with seven volunteer leaders from the Capital Area State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), learning about how the campaign works and some of their challenges. These are remarkable people who’ve taken on the job – in addition to their full-time job – of inspiring and encouraging their co-workers – tens of thousands of them – to take advantage of the payroll deduction opportunity for charitable donations.

What’s so amazing about their energy is that they wholeheartedly believe, as do we at GivingCity, that all people want to give, and that they just need to be asked or given an easy opportunity to give. The positive vibes in that room made me want to sign up for paycheck deductions, too. And I don’t even work for the state. Or have a paycheck! (My temporary unemployment, though, is a whole ‘nother story.)

One thing they said toward the end, though, has stuck with me. In this sour economy, it’s inevitable that some donors would make smaller or less frequent donations. But there’s a inspiring phenomenon that happens as well.

At a time when everyone is rethinking their spending, more people of less income tend to donate a higher percentage of their income more often.

“People criticize us because we invite state employees who don’t make that much money to participate,” said Tammy Vega, chair of the Capital Area committee.

“Some people assume that they wouldn’t want to give,” said Holly Chacona of Hospice Austin, an active supporter of SECC. “But why would we assume they don’t want to give?

“It’s not about tell people they should, it’s about givine people the opportunity,” says Chacona. “What we’ve seen at Hospice Austin in the past is that donations from individuals from low incomes homes actually increase. They also tend to give a higher percentage of their income that high-income donors do.

“And I don’t know if it’s because maybe they finally feel secure and now they want to help the people below them feel secure. Or that they’ve been recipients of services in the past, and realize that more people are getting those services and so they should help… we just don’t know.”

Vega, who works at Texas Youth Commission, concurs. “We repeatedly see the correctional officers, who don’t make a lot of money in the first place, give the highest percentage of their wages and give on a more consistent basis than a lot of other TYC employees.”

The other part of this, they say, is that a lot of these people wind up giving more later, when the economy improves.

“People don’t mind being asked when you present it as an opportunity,” says Chacona. “This just gives them a chance to shine.”

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