Charities dismiss idea that donors are an endangered species

Indira Das-Gupta

Claims in free newspaper Metro that people who give to charity will be wiped out through evolution have been rubbished by the sector.

The arguments, which were taken from a New Scientist article and headlined 'Why giving to charity is bad for you', were published last Thursday.

The New Scientist article refers to research by Robert Trivers of Rutgers University in New Jersey that suggests humans evolved to help others within their communities because they can expect the favour to be returned at some point in the future, a process known as "reciprocal altruism".

However, Trivers concluded that measures to help strangers thousands of miles away were "inappropriate altruism" because there was no obvious benefit to be gained and that such behaviour would be eradicated through evolution.

Shelter fundraising director Alan Gosschalk, who is leading the steering group to improve public confidence in charities, recently spoke out about the need to respond to damaging stories. "We need to get the message across by reacting to scandals quickly and in a more proactive sense," he said (Third Sector, 23 February).

Gosschalk dismissed the impact of the Metro article. He said: "Metro doesn't always get things right. Giving to charities makes a huge difference."

A spokeswoman for the Institute of Fundraising also brushed off the claims.

She said: "I think most people will see it for what it is - a silly scare story."

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