The true charity of secrecy

It was a year ago on Tuesday that a Burnsville apartment house burned down. Not only was Christmas gone for dozens of families, so was their home. Then, an anonymous donor stepped forward with $1 million. We still don’t know who the benefactor is.

Down in Fort Meyers, Florida, someone drops gold coins in a Salvation Army kettle each year. The same thing happens in Rapid City, S.D. A man hands out $100 to shoppers in a thrift store in Kansas City. He doesn’t want to be identified.

In St. Peter, the Christmas lights are up because someone — someone secret — gave $25,000.

Are these “secret givers” more charitable than the ones who make a big deal of their charity? Yes.

“I think of it as a higher form of philanthropy,” Eileen Heisman, president of a trust in Philadelphia told the Associated Press. She’s worked at other organizations where donors making public gifts have asked “How big are the letters going to be on the plaque?” that recognizes their contribution.

“That doesn’t diminish the donation,” Heisman told theAP. “But the idea that someone wants to give something and doesn’t expect something in return is something different.”
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In Indiana, “Christmas Pete,” who has given a rehab center more than $65,000 over the years, left a note where this year’s donation could be found — between the pine trees and the dumpsters.

In Flint, Michigan, a young man graduated from college earlier this month, thanks to someone who anonymously donated $16,000.

In Townsend, Mass., someone left $9,500 for the town library.


What’s in it for the benefactors? Nothing, apparently. Except the desire that the recipients pass it on.

  • Beth

    Tis the season….and personally I think that giving without needing recognition is in the true spirit of the season!

    Thanks Bob, for yet another inspirational article!

  • Jason DeRusha

    I wouldn’t say there’s nothing in it for the givers. There’s got to be a special kind of deep, internal pleasure received by the anonymous charity-givers. Giving its own reward: there’s always some self-motivation in a selfless act (even if we don’t think about it that way). I suspect that some of the anonymous givers feel quietly superior, for giving without receiving public recognition.

    They should feel superior. Those who publicly give are special. Those who privately give are in a different league. Well said, Bob.