This picture (stolen from my School's web site) of four heroic colleagues of mine captures a phenomenon that I hadn't quite experienced back in the States. And, no, I am not referring to baldness:The phenomenon, for lack of a better phrase, is "charity stunts." Sure, in the U.S. we have walk-a-thons to raise money for breast cancer, AIDS, or autism, among other worthy causes, and there are also the occasional telethons and maybe kissing booths and cookie sales, but there isn't a strong tradition of attention-grabbing fund raising stunts like there is here. This particular event was part of the World's Greatest Shave 2008 to raise money for the Australian Leukemia Foundation. Similarly, the month of November was Movember, in which men didn't shave their beards for the entire month to raise money for men's health issues (particularly prostate cancer). Before that was a pink day, for which I previously showed you a picture of Will dressed in pink at a tea party at his daycare to raise money for breast cancer. Still to come is "Red Nose Day" at the end of June, which raises money for the SIDS and Kids organisation. This is just a small sample of such charity stunts, which can give you the impression that Australians are highly charitable givers.
I have no idea what the actual rate of charitable giving is in this country, at least for the average income earner. There was a story this week, however, about charitable giving by the richest Australians. Interestingly, the wealthiest Australians (i.e., incomes of $100,000 or more) donate about 0.5% of their earnings to charity. By contrast, their American counterparts (which are often stereotyped as being stingy because of their relatively low contribution to foreign aid) donate about 3% of their earnings. I heard elsewhere that this same study found that Australian millionaires give about 3% to charity, whereas American millionaires give about 10% (but this might be calculated as a percentage of net worth rather than income). I don't really know what to make of these statistics, but I am curious about comparing the tax breaks of the two countries when it comes to charitable giving. I'll let you know more when we finally have to file taxes for the first time in Australia later this year.
By the way, if you'd like to donate to the World's Greatest Shave campaign yourself, here are the links to my colleagues' personal contribution sites: Blake (on the far left) Michael, (standing next to Blake) or Bill (standing on the far right). I can personally testify that they really did shave their heads.