Sunday, December 5, 2010

Giving Goals

Like so many people around me, I have great intentions to help make the world a better place. I feel daunted by the sheer scope of the problems I see, yet when I'm actually asked to give money, I usually say no, or defer the decision until a later which never comes. I confess that part of my reluctance to give is that I'll get on endless mailing lists, but truly the majority of my non-giving is just me wanting to keep my money for myself.

Since I've been tracking my spending for a few years, I was able to see in black and white how little I was sharing with the rest of the world. Since my financial house is mainly in order, I decided that I wanted to change my behavior. The best way to do that was to set giving goals: for the last three years I've made a conscious effort to give money, and have set a target for the amount I want to give away.

This year I set a goal to give away 2% of my take-home pay to charities and organizations I like. While it's not a ton of money, it's not insignificant either! The way this works for me is that I spend the year giving occasionally (when a friend is participating in a fund-raiser, or when I run into people selling raffle tickets for various organization), and then at the end of the year I add up my contributions and then give a bunch of money to make sure I meet my goal.

Last year, I listed the organizations I selected, and I'm mainly going to stick with them this year.

Here's how my giving has broken out so far this year:
  • January: I donated money to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti
  • January: I sponsored my younger brother, who was supposed to jump into freezing water to raise money for the Special Olympics (because only people with limited mental faculties would do this?? It does rather beg the question.). Alas, the weather was bad and they cancelled the plunge, but kept the money. That's fine by me - our older brother participates in the Special Olympics every year, it's a great organization, and I've done very little for its benefit. 
  • May: donated money for a raffle for some organization. Didn't win.
  • May: sponsored a friend running in a race to benefit her local animal shelter.
  • May: sponsored my local public radio station.
  • July: joined a local bicycle advocacy organization.
  • December: contributed to a fund to help a local second-run movie theater reopen (yes, I get benefits for my contribution, but I'm counting this anyway)
  • December: contributed to a fund to help a local coffee shop move and reopen (again, I get a benefit from this, but I'm still counting it)
... and that's it! They add up to just more than half of this year's Giving Goal, so I have some catching up to do now.

Here are the organizations who will get money from me this year:
  • My local food bank. I love food, I enjoy sharing it with others, it's a great topic of conversation, I read food blogs, and I can't believe that in this prosperous nation of ours, people go hungry. Every day. It kills me. This is my top giving priority every year. 
  • Doctors Without Borders. I have the Yarn Harlot to thank for this one - she's raised over a million dollars over five years, by asking fellow knitters to give to this wonderful organization. She says it much better than I can, so go read her blog posts about it
  • The Kristin Brooks Hope Center, because depression and suicide are unspeakably tragic (and I'm grateful that I've been only lightly exposed to them). I first found out about the center through PostSecret, which I try to read weekly.
At this time of year, when so many messages are about consumption, it really does feel especially nice to be looking for ways to share my good fortune with others.

1 comment:

  1. I've been grateful for the Combined Federal Campaign, which allows federal employees like me to designate charities and do payroll deduction throughout the year to contribute. I found a charity which rescues dogs, pairs them with firefighters, and trains them to find people trapped in rubble. That covers all the bases pretty well! I've also developed what I consider to be a good habit of donating to almost any cause a friend is participating in. I don't keep track of my donations because I'm comfortable with forgetting about them. I might be able to get a tax benefit but that's not why I do it.