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“When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”
-Matthew the Apostle (6:3)

Both Matthew the Apostle and Maimonides, a 12th century Jewish rabbi and philosopher, encouraged Christians and Jews to maintain the dignity of the poor by giving anonymously. Maimonides even went so far as to conceive of an eight-level hierarchy of giving (tzedakah) where the second highest form of giving was to give anonymously. As an aside, the highest level is obtained when the gift results in the recipient becoming self sufficient. The idea of “anonymous giving” is taken to ridiculous and humorous extremes with this wonderful  “Curb Your Enthusiasm” clip.

My own thoughts on giving have evolved over the years. Initially, I agreed that giving anonymously was the highest and best form of philanthropy. I then came to feel that if it takes a hospital wing to be named after the donor to separate him or her from the dollars in their wallet … then so be it! Now I feel a more nuanced perspective is appropriate. Specifically, often giving publicly serves as a strong positive example to others, especially when coupled with a dollar-for-dollar matching program. For more on this topic I highly recommend Ben Carlson’s post, The Best Time to Give Back.