Dawn Franks

I read a lot of fundraising columns and letters in my work. Some provide strong reasons for writing a check today, others are uninspiring but grammatically correct. Sometimes the column includes pictures that galvanize me to be inspired, angry or both. But few include compelling economic reasons for making a charitable gift to their work.

Last week, the Perryman Group’s column written by Dr. Ray Perryman, CEO and President, caught my attention. Perryman, a leading economist of more than 40 years, is well-known to East Texans and across the nation. I expect Perryman’s reports to include numbers of all kinds, from dollar figures to statistics and percentages. What surprised me this time was to read about the strong connections between giving and our economy.

Early in the column, Perryman says, “Millions have slipped into poverty, are now food insecure or face housing challenges, or are experiencing mental health issues.” He explains that economic consequences will be profound and to share what he describes as incontrovertible empirical evidence.

Profound and incontrovertible are not words commonly used together. As a fellow East Texan who has heard Perryman speak many times, I know he is neither a common nor a typical economist. In this column, he exposes his heart and maybe just a little about his donor stripes.

We know donors come with many different stripes. And we know that donors learn in different ways and at different rates. We always look for a “just right” way to give. Like Goldilocks, who tested the three bear’s porridge until she found the one that was just right, everyone’s just right is different.

First published by the English writer and poet Robert Southey in 1837, the Goldilocks story dates back to oral folklore. “The Story of the Three Bears” is found in a book of his writings, The Doctor, written for adult readers. Southey initially feared children might not find the tale. George Nicol edited the story as verse, illustrated and republished it in 1848. Children not only found it, but Goldilocks then worked her way into our lexicon.

Southey and Nicol could not have imagined that Goldilocks would become a common explanation in human growth and development. It seems we’re all looking for the “just right spot” for manageable difficulty from infancy on as we learn and grow.

The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.

For most of us, just right giving is easiest through the lens of helping meet a need without much thought about the origin of the need itself or its long-term impact. Perryman provides a window into the economics of giving, touching on origin and impact.

According to Perryman:

  • For every newly homeless person, there is a long-term economic impact of over $900,000.
  • Every child who suffers first-time maltreatment brings lifetime costs of almost $2 million.
  • The pandemic’s job losses created millions without health insurance, a cost of $46,000 per person per year.

Perryman is clear about the long-term effects of poverty and food insecurity as it multiplies through business and society. $436.4 billion in gross product losses and 4.7 million job-years of employment are staggering. In Texas, Perryman predicts the losses are $48.5 billion in output.

Together as donors, we can dent these numbers, and make a definitive impact. Perryman tells us that every $1 invested in food for the hungry benefits the economy by $33.00. If you give $100 to the East Texas Food Bank or a community food panty like the North East Texas Benevolence in Noonday, you’ve had a $3,300 economic impact on the community. That’s a bonus beyond feeding hungry children, seniors, or families.

For some donors, this is too much information. For others, this is precisely the motivation they are looking for to make their giving “just right.” If you’re one of those donors, be sure to check out the entire Perryman column “Compassion: An Economic Perspective” online at Start 2021 off right with economic information and impact.

Dawn Franks, the author of the e-book Giving Fingerprints, is CEO of Your Philanthropy. She provides high touch advising services to families, businesses, and foundations to enhance the giving experience and maximize impact. She writes a blog, the YP Journal, at Comments and questions are welcome. Send to

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