This March, the Poverty Action Coalition hosted the Pennies for Change Challenge to raise money to help people living in poverty in Waterville. With the help of 18 local businesses and organizations, we raised more than $1,160. These pennies will support our efforts to help improve the lives of members of our community.

Though the Pennies for Change Challenge was not intended to be a social experiment, it’s important to highlight a pattern among the donations we received. With the exception of Colby College, the most generous donations came from organizations and businesses that frequently interact with people living in poverty. This pattern correlates with national data gathered by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In 2012, the Chronicle published an article titled, “As Wealthy Give Smaller Share of Income to Charity, Middle Class Digs Deeper.” It describes a study that found that people with the lowest incomes gave the highest proportion of their incomes to charity, though their incomes had declined from the previous year. On the flip side, people with the highest incomes donated the lowest proportion of their incomes, though their incomes had increased from the past year.

This may seem like a disturbing trend, but there is a disruption of it: Wealthy people who lived in mixed-income neighborhoods donated more to charity than wealthy people who lived among other wealthy people.

Despite political rhetoric that suggests that donations from wealthy people will cover the gaps in our dwindling social safety net, it seems that people who see the consequences of punishing economically vulnerable people are most likely to help their neighbors in need.

Paige Barker


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