Anonymous donation is not for everyone. Many philanthropists approach their financial advisors on this subject, a completely rational desire to make sure that anonymous donation is safe and fiscally smart. The impulse to donate anonymously is natural. But is there a downside to being discreet? From the side of the charity, anonymous donations means the inability to use the identity and status of the donor to generate support. The anonymous donor has the same problem; there is no way to set an example by their support for a specific cause, because their support for that cause is not made public.
There are, on the other hand, any number of reasons a philanthropist may not wish their identity to be known. They may not want to be flooded with requests for money by other charities. Perhaps they like their privacy. Maybe they just like the idea of being kind for the sake of being kind, and for doing a deed with modesty and a pure heart.
From a similar purity of intent, charities would like to know the identity of their donors in order to thank them. The charity that finds itself in this dilemma, may want to consider that the anonymous donor prefers not to be thanked. That’s part of the zeitgeist of anonymous giving: you don’t need to be thanked.
Vetted and Approved
But the charity has a point, too: significant public donations demonstrate that a person of means or stature (or both) has vetted and approved the charity. The donor should realize that revealing their identity benefits the charity. In other words, the impulse for doing the deed with a pure heart may be an illusion, because in some ways, anonymous donation means the charity may be cheated of important benefits.
It bears noting too, that anonymous donation means leaving no legacy of philanthropy for the public and for their families. How will their offspring know to continue the tradition of giving with the financial wellsprings they inherit? How will they know that charity is a virtue, if they don’t see it or know about it? Finally, how will they know and absorb into their marrow, the family values they stand to inherit along with their trusts, whether it’s supporting children’s education, or preserving the environment?
Good people want their children not only to make good professionally. They want them to know that empathy and giving are important. But many good people also choose to donate anonymous. They don’t want to be solicited for donations from likeminded charities because they don’t want to be forced to dilute their support for their chosen charity. They want to maximize their giving.
Anonymous Donation and Privacy
A donor may also not want their colleagues to know their financial worth. They don’t want to be hit up for loans and donations for other causes. Money also tends to get in the way of collegial relations in the workplace. Preserving the status quo in regard to your coworkers is a valid reason for hiding your identity when making a donation.
Protecting one’s family is also a concern that can be resolved through anonymous donation. A large donation can draw unpleasant attention to and scrutiny of the named donor’s family. The fear of causing jealousy is also a righteous reason not to reveal your identity in the course of significant giving. Who wants jealous neighbors talking behind your back about how rich, and possibly how stingy you are. It’s all sour grapes of course, but you want to feel like you’re on good terms with the people who live close by—the people you may see on an everyday basis.
Cancel culture is another good reason for you as a donor to give anonymously. Maybe you don’t want people to know you support something controversial. You may not want to change their perceptions about who you are as a person.
The bottom line is that the decision to be anonymous when you donate is one that is difficult and complicated. Anonymous donation, in short, is a multifaceted issue. By far, charities and donors prefer public donation, but you can’t go wrong with giving charity, whether or not your name is on a plaque.