I finished my 2013 charitable giving while sitting in horrid traffic today. I have an anemic commitment to give away 1% of my net pay each year. I'm not solving the world's problems with my 1%, but I am creating a routine of giving that makes me feel good about myself, and is likely to have more impact as my earning potential grows.
This year, the squeeze on my checkbook that resulted from both hosting a wedding and finishing major house renovations within two months made, "I just don't have anything extra to give away this year" such a tempting position to take. I was desperate to say this.
But as the wedding and the house renovations put a squeeze on me, they also continue to remind me of the privilege I enjoy in the world. I believe that generosity shouldn't be defined by giving away what's extra. Generosity, in my opinion, is about giving away something you would like for yourself, sacrifice for the greater good.
(Think about it - when you clean out your closets to make way for new clothes, it is NICE to give the stuff you no longer want to your favorite clothing give-away program, but is it generous? I'd say no. It is nice and convenient. But you are giving away what is, to you, trash.)
So, give I did. While sitting in two hours of Boston morning traffic.
Here's where my money went:
The bulk of my giving - 37.7% - went to local organizations that help children and families in crisis. I'm not making a dent in the long term causes of poverty. But, because my empathy is nearly disabling, I know I want to use my time and treasure, right now, to alleviate suffering. The charities I give to include Cradles to Crayons, the Hingham Interfaith Food Pantry and Catholic Charities in Central NY (where my mom works as a case manager for families moving out of homelessness.)
The next largest chunk of my giving - 24.5% - went to environmental conservation - the National Parks Conservation Association is my fave, followed by the local Trustees of the Reservation. I give to the Trustees in part so I can get free admission to my favorite public lands to walk and be still.
I have a commitment to giving to charities if a friend asks - for a bike race, marathon or other cause. This year, at least 21% of my giving fell in this arena. Charity Water, the oral cancer foundation, and Raising A Reader MA are among the groups I supported from this bucket this year (and I know I missed some that BMG and I gave to from our joint account). Unless I really can't support the cause for personal reasons. For example, I'm not against the death penalty, so if you do a pray-a-thon to raise money to fight the death penalty, I won't give. I DO admire you for your commitment to a cause that makes your heart go pitter pat, but it isn't my cause.
Finally, while it doesn't touch my day-to-day life, I do give money to global disaster relief, through Doctors Without Borders. And, because it touches my life nearly daily, I give to my local library.
I know my gifts are small. And small helps. And small grows. It grows by invigorating me, and by inspiring me to do more. I'm making the time for regular blood donations, and starting to wrap my brain around carving out time to volunteer somewhere regularly - perhaps for an organization getting at the root cause of an issue that tears at my heart strings (because so much of my giving is focused on immediate problems rather than chipping away at the source of the problem).
I am the 1% and I'm proud of it.
What organizations do you support - with your time, talents or treasure? Why?