Next Friday 19 the Rei Jaume I Awards in its 33rd edition will be delivered at the Lonja de los Mercaderes in Valencia. As usual, the excellence of the winners who have more than enough merits to receive such a prestigious award stands out. Every year we are surprised by the scientific or business level of the winners, professionals who carry out their activity in Spain, many times higher than that observed in neighboring countries. This is what the scientific and business personalities who are part of its international juries assure us – among which this year there were 21 Nobel Prize winners – when they analyze the almost 200 nominations submitted.
The excellence of the candidates and the juries, and the amount and prestige of the Prize determined by the trajectories of the winners of previous editions, explain the expectation generated every year by both its proclamation in the spring and its delivery in autumn. But all the credit acquired would not have been possible without the disinterested collaboration of the companies, institutions and administrations that cooperate in the support of a project that was born in 1989 and that anticipated the future inspired by the initial impulse of Professor Grisolía.
I say disinterested collaboration because that is how it has been in our Foundation and that is how it should continue to be. The employers share the objectives of promoting and integrating science, technology and entrepreneurship, control the management and make suggestions for improvement from their own point of view that help guide the project on the right track. In my opinion, the great value of the Rei Jaume I Awards Foundation is that at the same time it does not belong to anyone and it belongs to everyone, the result of cooperation between the main companies, institutions and administrations of the Valencian Community that share the common objective to work and bet on the future of Spain.
Fortunately, the Spanish philanthropic tradition is far from the risk of interference with other objectives susceptible to criticism, such as those carried out in other countries by some great benefactors determined to influence politics, parties, and defend certain ideologies in society or the particular interests of certain pressure groups (lobbies). In addition, to the extent that donations are deducted in the personal income tax or corporate income tax return, the amount of uncollected taxes (which are usually called fiscal expenditure), it is argued that the State co-finances the activity that the Foundation decides to carry out. and directs attention to its particular interest. The US Treasury estimated that the amount of tax deductions for nonprofit foundations eligible to be offered to their contributors amounted to $ 740 billion over a decade. More than half of Spain’s GDP, which is no small thing.
Since the 19th century, the increasing activities carried out by the State have gradually replaced the role previously played by the private sector: from the administration of justice or the care of the poor to the construction of large infrastructures such as roads, bridges, ports, lighthouses. or railways. And among those who anticipated the State as providers of new services to citizens and wove a safety net for the most disadvantaged, were the philanthropic institutions that played an invaluable role since their creation. It is important to remember this circumstance that is frequently forgotten when accused of exclusively seeking a tax deduction or unfair influence. Its true reason for being responded to an altruistic and useful inspiration aimed at solving the most pressing problems of society.
Philanthropic activities also have several special attractions. On the one hand, they have a high value because they respond to a voluntary decision -not coercive as in taxes- in which the donor decides what he wants to do with his contribution and directs with his contribution the part co-financed by the State. On the other, they allow long-term actions – the most important ones – that exceed the electoral horizon that usually sets political attention, and also allow these activities to be somewhat more risky and innovative with which to test, evaluate and eventually abandon new initiatives. without running the political risk that failure would entail if it had been done with the public budget.
It’s not just great fortunes that have supported patronage. In the US, in 2020, 70% of the total contributions are made by individuals in very modest amounts to NGOs, churches, cultural educational institutions and other entities, without forgetting the value of the hours dedicated in the form of volunteer actions – made by one in four people – which spends 40% of the value of donations in money. Contrary to what is often argued, this high role of volunteering has not led to a rise in the unemployment rate but has lived with a high dynamism in job creation.
As a result of globalization that has allowed markets to grow and of technological innovation that has allowed a small group of companies to serve them, three or four hundred mega-corporations have developed on the planet. Founded recently, their ownership is highly concentrated and their success has given rise to great personal fortunes of their founders, the accelerators of the start-ups and also of its employees when they received part of their ordinary remuneration in options on the shares of the company.
As always, the best way to convince a company or individual of how interesting and enriching it is to commit to a philanthropic activity is to show examples of altruistic initiatives that have far exceeded the scope and notoriety of the donor’s business or professional activity. . To cite just examples from other countries, Alfred Nobel is known far more for the Foundation that awards the Awards than for his business success in the important application of nitroglycerin in dynamite. The same happens with JD Rockefeller, whom the University of Chicago -of which he was founder- has surpassed with his extraordinary scientific activity linked at some point in his career with no less than 94 Nobel Prizes (35 of them in Economics) his extraordinary impact as an entrepreneur in the oil industry. Andrew Carnegie is known more for having built 3,000 public libraries in the US than for being a steel magnate. Along with the Mellon brothers, partners in the same sector, he was a co-founder of Carnegie-Mellon University where 11 Nobel Laureates teach. The list of examples would include the current billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the members of the select group of the Giving Pledge movement who, since the summer of 2010, pledged to allocate most of their assets to solve the main problems of humanity. For this reason, they will remain in history longer and will make their descendants and compatriots feel more proud of these achievements than of their undoubted and important roles in the success of their companies. And this success, in the 21st century, is increasingly difficult, because it includes not only making money and generating quality employment but also producing an additional positive impact on its environment. And philanthropic activity is the natural way to do it so that what is now a minority in Spain will soon become a much more widespread activity in the future that will again reform capitalism in a more participatory, just, sustainable and humanistic direction. .
But not only companies and large companies must be pioneers and decisive in philanthropic activity. Greater value still have the contributions made by the majority of people of medium and low income, in proportion to their possibilities, to the causes they consider necessary and just. Their contributions finance projects that benefit many and that enjoy a capillarity that reaches the places furthest from power. The merit of its promoters is undeniable. And there are those who do not donate money but do donate their time in volunteer actions. Its impulse would not only educate young people in ethical values but would also grant an additional philanthropic activity to the growing number of retirees in our country who would feel more integrated and committed to the future of our society.
Javier Quesada. Executive President of the PRJI
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Opinion | Back with philanthropy. By Javier Quesada # OpinionVP