NYNC: The Eight Degrees of Charity


I can change the world
With my own two hands
Make a better place
With my own two hands

-Ben Harper


While researching for the ‘New Year New Consumer’ series that is currently focusing on redefining the measures of success to include ‘well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving’ as a third ‘metric’ for money and power (check out this post for more info) I came across this great ‘hierarchy’ of giving by a jewish sage

According to Moses Maimonides there are eight levels to charitable giving. These begin with:

  • The first, or entry level of giving is when donations are given grudgingly. Like when those pesky canvassers (I can call them pesky because I was one for a while and I annoyed myself) harass you in the street for donations while you are trying to do your grocery shopping.
  • The seventh level is the act of giving a little, less than one should but doing so with cheer. This could be donating your change from your coffee to the charity box at the register. You know that thirty cents won’t do too much but it’s better put to use at the wildlife reduce than it is rolling around your handbag.
  • The sixth level is donating to the poor when you are asked directly. Giving to the man who sits near your bus stop every morning and asks you directly for money.
  • The fifth level of charity is giving without being asked.
  • The fourth level is giving when the recipient is aware of the donors identity but you aren’t aware of the identity of the recipient. The perfect example of this is the easter Children’s Hospital appeal where your donations are televised and all who are watching to see, and the hospital itself know that you donated, but you have no real idea who will end up benefiting from your funds.
  • The third level is when you are aware of where your charity is being given but the recipient is unaware of the source. An example of this would be placing an envelope of cash into your struggling neighbours mailbox.
  • The second level of giving sees that the donor and recipient are totally unknown to each other, just like blood donors and blood transfusion recipients.
  • The highest level of giving is to sustain a person before they become impoverished. This could be offering gifts in a dignified manner, providing them funds or a loan, or by assisting in their education or helping them find employment.

This list made me consider ‘at what level can I give’, and at what capacity can I give? Specifically in regard to the Vanuatu cyclone disaster.

From past fundraising  attempts I have always experienced a level of doubt when trying to encourage others to give for a cause. Not because I don’t appreciate the cause itself, more that I feel that ‘everyone is fighting their own battles’ and I feel rude asking them to assist in another. Years ago I ran a ‘big’ fundraiser effort in memory of a friend and really struggled with the emotions that I experienced when asking for donations (especially when people gave on the ‘first level’ of the hierarchy, begrudgingly)

Have you had any similar feelings when attempting to ‘give’ or encourage others to give in a charitable sense?




Author: Katie

Katie Roberts is a self confessed 'write-a-holic' Environmental Scientist with a passion for Sustainable Fashion.

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  1. This is a very interesting article. I notice there is no category for “unwillingly” – ie when a government forces us to support charities.

    That’s not why I’m commenting though :) I think it’s very hard for people to feel capable or empowered to give above the 1st and 2nd levels because we are all struggling and we aren’t “in a position” to give, and also BECAUSE the government has so many programs to presumably do these “jobs.” Regardless of their effectiveness, I often see people seeking help and others stand around feeling bad and pointing them in the direction of government agencies, rather that recognizing that they are capable of helping. No, a group of 10 people cannot fix the world, however a group of 10 people can change the life of one other person or family more effectively than a faceless government entity can truly meet the financial, physical, spiritual, emotional needs of a massive number of people in need. We need to be empowered again, we need to reinvent communities that protect and nurture themselves, rather than turning outward. For me personally, I know that I give as much as possible, right to the “highest level,” despite the fact that we are dirt poor and struggling in huge ways. Because I can, as can anyone else.

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    • Hi Mich!

      Glad that you liked this little bit of info. Pretty unbelievable that information provided by a sage who passed on in the year 1204 could be so relevant in 2015! Presumably things may have been organised a little differently in Moses’s time (history isn’t my strong point my high school was too rural and small to teach it) so government’s unwillingly ‘giving’ may not have been an issue back then?

      It is true that many believe that they aren’t in a financial situation to help at the higher levels but there are small things we can do. Giving blood is a great example of a higher level of giving that need not cost any money. My lovely elderly neighbour has had 88 foster children though her care, which (in some cases) is the sustaining a person before they become impoverished. So she gives at the highest level and isn’t a financially wealthy woman. These are all examples of how we can as you say, be empowered at an individual or community level to give back at a very effective level.

      There is a very strong reliance on ‘the government’ to bail us out of crisis, what we seem to have forgotten in some instances is that all of the large social movements (gender equality, racial equality, the end of the Vietnam War etc) in history have started from the bottom up. The government acts on our behalf and without a loud and united ‘voice’ from the community they will just continue on being guided by the past and informed by the economists of the present.

      Love that you give all you can and are passionate about your causes. It is individuals like yourself that instigate the social changes required to make the world a better place (I have just been reading a journal article about this for uni today). Keep on being your awesome self!


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