The recent passing of Steve Jobs has, for many admirers, raised anew the question of anonymous giving: is it better to give without taking credit? As a recent Reuter’s article points out, whether for Jobs or for the average donor, there are some important considerations to bear in mind.
Jobs was famous for a great many accomplishments, not the least of which was being a self-made entrepreneur who transformed a garage-sized company into a titanic icon. As a result, he was a powerful force in business and popular culture alike. He also is famous for not being a charitable giver, quite unlike his Microsoft foil, Bill Gates. However, that raises the very real possibility that he did give to charity, perhaps in death, if not also in life… but he did so in secret. Indeed, it wouldn’t have been terribly hard, especially for one who has proven himself to be a private person. But why would Jobs (or you) elect to give anonymously?
There are multiple sentiments supporting “quiet” giving. Whether you are bashful and wish to avoid undue accolades, or you simply want to avoid further solicitation, privacy is of considerable importance to many donors. Another basis supporting anonymous giving is religious tradition, as evident in traditions as disparate as Judaism and Buddhism. In the end, giving without recognition and fanfare holds an undeniably powerful pull and is the right choice for many.
Nevertheless, there remains at least one consideration favoring the public giver, as pointed out in the article. Although giving privately provides an opportunity to do good in the world, giving publicly provides an opportunity for others to witness good being done in the world. In short, it provides a generous role model to the world.
Either way, private or public, it’s clear that thinking about how to give can be as important as thinking about to whom. Whether Jobs gave privately is his own business. If he gave privately it’s because he wanted it that way. The question remains, however, how do you want to give?