Rosa’s current friend support for giving is low, but she recalls a time during her childhood when it was higher, as her own giving was then: “As of right now, nothing. I don’t give. I don’t think about it. Growing up was different. ... I don’t know. I just, I haven’t found the group or whatever that I’m interested in to give up my time.” We asked, “Why do you think that you were doing that more growing up?” To which Rosa replied, “Cause I had people around me that would do it” [emphasis added].

Rosa exemplifies how having little support for giving among her current web of affiliations makes maintaining a generous orientation difficult. Her orientation was shaped by her experiences as a child with her mother and her friends, but her current WoA does not support this orientation. Perhaps the process of fostering a child will provide a new friend affiliation group that will make active a dialogue about generosity. For now, her WoA recipe is not one that makes for much giving.

Anthony Ross: In Between, Regrouping, and Poor in D.C.

Anthony Ross does not give, and he too has a web of affiliations that offers little support for giving. In discussing his web of affiliations, Anthony seems to be thinking back to an early time in his childhood: “I’m not sure if my mom did. My grandma did, though. ... Yeah. Every Sunday she’d give more ... to the Catholic Church, yeah.” Regarding role models for volunteering, he had this to say: “My grandma. I did some of that when I was 13. That was when I was baptized, around there. But that’s pretty much it. ... She volunteered at church. ... Me, I was, they held bake sales and stuff like that, so I was helping out with that.” Thus Anthony had some exposure to a generous grandmother and some involvement in church when he was younger. But today this modeling of generosity seems like a distant memory.

Summarizing the overall generosity of his family Anthony says, “I would say they were probably—things changed, so right now they have the means to do it, so they can donate. Back then they didn’t have the means to do it. So they couldn’t spend a dime. Well, my mom couldn’t spend a dime. My grandma, I’m not sure if she could spend a dime.” He discusses their influence on his giving in this way: “Well, yeah, my grandma said, ‘Give.’ If someone asks for a dollar, and you really think they need it. You make a judgment call. You think they need it, it’s permissive.” It almost sounds as though the norm is not to give, that giving of your limited resources requires justification, that the recipient has to be clearly worse off.

Though Anthony regularly attended a Catholic church as a child, that religious affiliation does not seem to have much of a residual effect on his giving today because there was no strong call to give when he was in the church. He recounts: [1]

stuff will participate. People who give money will give money. I can’t say give a certain percentage of money. I don’t understand that.

In summary, he says, “Well, it’s like you’re following how you were taught. You’re giving what you were taught to give. Nothing less and nothing more.” We could not have said it better.

The Path Taken (and Not)

The six cases with clear WoA pathways to higher giving are surrounded by giving-supportive affiliations. From the six cases with low to no giving, however, we hear about past memories of family or religious affiliations that provided some historical support for giving, but rarely did we hear about giving-supportive affiliations in their current web of social relations. It appears that part of the explanation for these six cases’ lower giving is this lack of support. Our case studies also demonstrate that these characteristics and networks are dynamic. We can see how a change in Tanika’s friend group seems to have resulted in her increased volunteering, and how Cindy’s new membership in a young professionals group supports her after-school tutoring. These examples help show how changes in webs of affiliation can make for greater (or lesser) giving over time.

  • [1] don’t know what else they can do, rather than, from what I remember, what they were doing. I mean, people who will participate in
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