Debra Allcock Tyler: Why the rich should give it like Beckham

Don't question his motives for donating his salary to charity, says our columnist - he sets an example to the ungiving rich

Debra Allcock Tyler
Debra Allcock Tyler

I am a bit puzzled about the strangely negative reaction to David Beckham donating his salary from Paris Saint-Germain to a French children's charity.

The amount of flak he's received from the blogosphere, Facebookers and the Twitterati is truly bewildering. And I'm at a loss to understand why.

I expect his motives are probably good, but to be honest I don't much care what they are. And I doubt the children who will benefit from his possibly multi-million-pound donation will either.

Let's face some facts here. Rich people don't give much of their money away, if they give any at all (that's probably why they're rich). There's an inverse proportionality to levels of wealth and levels of giving - the richer we get, the tighter we get, it seems.

On average, the poorest 10 per cent give about 3 per cent of their money to charity, while the richest 20 per cent give only 0.7 per cent, which is only about one-tenth of all giving.

My conclusion from the figures I've seen is that £10bn is given by people you wouldn't describe as rich and that not much more than £1bn is given by those who have massive amounts of money.

I think that's something to be a bit embarrassed about if you're rich. Why wouldn't you give generously if you can afford to? And why wouldn't you shout about it? Because the more you shout, the more you encourage other rich people to give.

From what I've seen, there are three major criticisms of Beckham. First, that he's giving his money to a French charity rather than a British one. So what? It's French money. Why shouldn't a French charity benefit? Are French children less deserving? We wouldn't dream of telling people in the UK that they shouldn't donate to charities that work overseas. What do they think Oxfam or Save the Children or Unicef do?

The second criticism is that it's easy for him, because he's already rich. Again, so what? At least he's giving. Isn't that what matters?

And third, that he's gone public with his gift and that that's a bit self-aggrandising. Well, yet again, so what? We need rich people to give publicly, because that's probably one of the few ways we have of convincing other rich people to give and give more. I personally don't mind if they give out of shame or embarrassment - so long as they actually give.

So I don't think the motive matters much at all. Most donors get something out of donating, even if it's just a sense of feeling good about themselves. And for those who criticise him - well, if they can hold up their bank statements and prove that they donate regularly, then maybe they have the right to criticise. If they can't ... well then, they should just be told to keep quiet.

And wouldn't it be wonderful if his giving encouraged shamefully overpaid, spoiled, badly behaved footballers and other rich celebrities to do the same? So I say this: don't bend it like Beckham - give it like Beckham.

Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

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