Lots of people have that irresistible day dream in which some distant and previously unknown relative suddenly dies leaving them more money than they could ever imagine. Others wake from a wonderful dream that features representatives from Publishers Clearing House at the door carrying balloons and a very large check made out to the dreamer. And of course there is the highly popular meandering thought experienced every time someone buys a lottery ticket and immediately begins assuming a windfall is on the way. Along with many of these rags to riches fantasies, comes the secondary fantasy about what you would do with all that loot once you got it . Before you spend any of it, should you ever get it to begin with, you might want to reflect on the actions of a group called the 50% League.
What Is the 50% League It’s a small group of about 80 people with a simple base in Arlington, MA , aligned mostly by a common desire to make good decisions about how to use their money. When they say good decisions, they don’t mean using money to invest to make more money and so on for ever after. Those who are part of the 50% League have determined that the best thing they can do with at least half of their money is to give it to others through a huge variety of charitable donations.
Many of the members of the 50% League have had experiences not dissimilar to the common daydreams of sudden wealth we all experience, only their dreams have come true. Among League members are people who suddenly, and without much effort on their part, found themselves extremely wealthy. But for them there was not the overwhelming urgency to go out and buy a house or take a cruise or purchase a new car.. Instead many members of the 50% League discovered that suddenly having a large amount of money made them uncomfortable and knew instinctively that spending it was going to make them even more uncomfortable.
For 50 % League folks, the clear alternative to consumption of wealth is sharing it, disbursing it to charitable institutions to be used to meet the needs of others. To become a League member there is no fancy initiation or elaborate code to memorize. It’s very simple. To become a member of the 50% League you determine to contribute half (50%) of your income, profits from business or in some cases net worth to charity. When you have made good on this pledge for three years you are a 50% League member.
Who Would Do Such a Thing. The idea of giving away half of what you earn each year or half of your net worth at some point in your life is overwhelming to most people. There are just so many “things” out there to buy and have that giving away purchasing power seems almost inconceivable. People who are members of the 50% League see life in a very different way. Some confess to thinking that the money they have is far more than they are entitled to or actually earned. Their inner sense of “guilt” has prompted some members to make the leap and simply give away half or more of what they earn. Of the members some have well known names like Robert Kennedy, Jr. or Grace Ross, former candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, but many are quiet, unknown and unassuming people who have made a conscious decision to do the something good with what they have been given.
Some members are prompted to this exotic form of philanthropy because they are social activities and see it as the equitable and just thing to do. Sitting on piles of money while other people go without daily necessities is intolerable and so they seek out the 50% League solution. There are some members who just want to live a simple life style. They have no need or desire for anything beyond the basics. Too many material possessions simply complicate their lives and so they are happy to find a good home, so to speak, for at least 50% of their wealth. And of course there are some members of the 50% League who have come to membership because of their religious convictions. Many spiritual groups emphasize the need for charitable giving as part of a religious lifestyle. Those with deeply held religious convictions find camaraderie with others that see the point in divesting themselves of 50% or more of their wealth.
Of those who are members some have wellknown names like Robert Kennedy, Jr. or Grace Ross, former candidate for Governor of Massachusetts, but many are quiet, unkonw and unassuming people who have made a conscious decision to do something goood with what they have been given. Amazingly enough not everyone who is a 50% League Member is a millionaire. There are a number of middle class people who have taken up the idea of giving up 50% of their wealth and are simply managing with a smaller home, a less showy car, fewer vacations, less jewelry, more common clothing, furnishings and food. They are making a whole new set of decisions that will enable them to put their money to what they now consider to be good use.
What Kinds of Work Have they Accomplished One goal of the 50% League is to encourage the funding of worthwhile charities through the use of one half of income, profits and individual net worth. The results already are somewhat astounding even with an original membership of about 80 individuals t As a group the League has divested itself of some one half billion dollars on behalf of charitable and non-profit organizations and agencies.
The types of funding has been varied. Money has gone to programs for clean air and water, for Habitat for Humanity, third world children’s causes, and programs that aim at coping with abuse of children. The list burgeons out beyond this and includes many causes that are personal to the donors but all of them charitable. There is no philanthropic effort that is outside of the reach of those who are members of 50% League. The hope of the group’s founders is that with each increase in membership additional charities will be better funded and more needy people attended to.
How Their Example Multiplies their Accomplishment. The actual giving of their own money for charitable purposes by the 50%League turns out to be only 50% of the good they do. What started out for some members as a way to make sure that some type of fairness prevails in the distribution of resources has led them beyond their own backyard.
As the 50% League gets involved in their own charitable giving the idea of philanthropy often inspires them to share their thoughts about giving to the needy with other Americans. The sad fact is that while the 50% League is committed to sharing half of what they have with others, the average charitable participation by other Americans hangs out at about 2-3 % and it is a very large crowd .
What the League founders and members hope to do is to serve as inspiration, encouragement, enlightenment, example and mentor for other Americans who may be willing to increase their giving but just need a little direction. The League recognizes that not every American household can afford to give away half of its wages, many can afford to do much better with their giving then the currently do. Lifting up that per centage, to 50% if possible, but also to just 5% or 10% could make an incredible difference for the needy in the U. S. and around the world.
The 50% League has dedicated itself to issues of social justice, fairness, equality and spiritual righteousness . They do not boast of their doing but only welcome others to join them as they try to reshape world priorities .