Q. When is a gift not a gift?

A. Most of the time.

A group of friends were discussing this question as we drank coffee sitting outside a café. A woman passed by and politely introduced herself as homeless and soon we had given her some money. Our friend said “you see – a genuinely gratuitous gift” to which we asked “…or did we pay her to leave?”

It is the fashion now to focus on impact and measurement in grant-making and charitable activity, but these terms are badges of commerce, not giving. ‘Getting better value from your gift’ is a laudable goal, but how often can an alcoholic return before our charity is exhausted? Limitless charity enables endless drinking, but only that would be a true gift, made regardless of the consequence. A requirement to stop drinking is no longer a gift but a transaction.

Once we set criteria, we trade, and only haggle over the price. What matters is who sets the criteria.

Categories: Governance, Grant-making
Yoke and Company is the trading name of Yoke Financial Consultants Limited, incorporated in England and Wales (No 10787996) and registered at 6 Normanhurst Road, London, SW2 3TA.
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