Reciprocity and Altruism


“But what about good old-fashioned altruism?” This is one of the questions that comes to mind when reading some of the policy work coming out of government on the issue of charitable giving. A key feature of both the green and white and papers on giving, and of some of the subsequent new funding that has been announced, is a focus on reciprocity: finding new forms of “offering donors something in return” in order to incentivise giving. This raises the question of whether people do increasingly expect to get something back, or whether there is still room for overtly selfless or altruistic behaviour.

Of course, the first thing we should ask ourselves is whether there is really any such thing as true altruism, or whether there is inherently some element of reciprocity in any form of giving.

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