A typical stingy New Englander, I have historically given away just 1% of my gross income. I have a budget and a plan, which helps me sort out the myriad requests I get in the mail, on social media and in the course of my daily life. My plan has looked like this:
- 25% to any number of local organizations or chapters of local organizations that alleviate the symptoms of homelessness and poverty - particularly for children and families (e.g., Cradles to Crayons, Horizons for Homeless Children, Housing Families, the Red Cross). I often feel guilty that I'm not funding root cause organizations, but then I remember that poverty is persistent in human culture, I can't do everything and it is the day-to-day suffering that hurts my soul.
- 25% to conservation organizations, specifically the Trustees of the Reservation and the National Parks Conservation Association. I love these United States, and want to do my small part to ensure that our natural spaces remain preserved and accessible.
- 50% goes to the causes my friends love, in the form of sponsorship of walk-a-thons, run-a-thons, hair-cut-a-thons, hair-grow-a-thons, etc. I do this because I know it is hard to raise money, and it is hard to ask friends for help. (I do have a practice of not giving to friends if I philosophically do not support the organization for which they are raising money.)
And when the budget is used up, I stop giving. (Sorry Movember, I was too generous earlier in the year.)
However, the events in Ferguson Missouri triggered a deep anger in me about the power of conservative fear in blocking efforts to reform gun laws. I perceive that this same fear - the fear of "other" and the fear of "god" - is also driving efforts to restrict a woman's right to choose. So, my giving plan is changing to look more like this:
- 40% to human and civil rights organizations dedicated to reforming gun law and policing practices as part of their overall civil rights agenda
- 25% to organizations dedicated to protecting and expanding a woman's right to direct her own health care
- 25% to my beloved conservation organizations
- 10% to the causes my friends love
And, in 2015, I will double the amount of money I give away, budgeting 2% of my gross income. I want to be able to give bigger - albeit still modest - gifts to the organizations I believe are making positive change in the world. The doubling of my philanthropy budget will be complemented by the gift matching program at my office, which offers a match of up to $250 for employee's charitable gifts.
I haven't worked out the details yet, and am excited to do the research to figure out who will get the money, and how I can use social media to help spread the word about their cause.
But my giving won't end with the money I choose to give away. I recently took new job, one that requires a shorter commute and therefore gives me more time to be a whole person. With some of my new time I will start volunteering. I will make my donations to organizations dedicated to alleviating suffering through volunteerism - at work and at home. This includes blood donations every eight weeks and preparing meals for my local community through Community Cooks. I am also trying to determine how I can participate in efforts to change the national conversation about race through efforts of organizations like the Public Conversations Project.
I learned about the power of a giving plan when I worked for the people who started what is now known as Bolder Giving. I loved the idea of being strategic and intentional with my charitable giving, regardless of whether I was middle class or if I was running the foundation BMG said I could start when he wins the lottery. And it feels good to freshen it up for 2015, so I can put my money where my heart and my mouth is.
Happy Giving Tuesday!