I come from a culture, as many do, where donating is part of the cultural identity. It's considered the right thing to do and there is something wrong with you if you don't. Yet, after years of generosity, that word makes me angry.
You see, if everyone was trying their hardest and giving equally a percentage, it might be okay, but even then, what are you funding? The continuation of a broken system? Some sort of corruption? Or, are you actually HELPING?
I gave to an institution as I was struggling with my new husband to make ends meet. They claimed they were poor, but upon further investigation, one of their new managers, my age, less work experience and with less work hours was able to purchase a new home. We could not afford to live in the area they purchased in. So, why did I give them money? Shouldn't it have been the other way around if all were fair and equal?
I then I gave to some large institutions that were old and claimed to help various things like animals and veterans, but they would send me about the same dollar value as what I would give in useless parifinalia. So, what was I donating for? Even after I stopped giving they still gave me junk. Not to mention, some of it was religious themed, even though they supposedly represented a non-religious freedom loving organization.
By that time I figured giving to institutions really only resulted in furthering corruption, so I was going to give to individuals. I met someone at work who seemed to be struggling financially. In fact, she said she sadly could only afford to go to food pantries and was living paycheck to paycheck. I felt bad, so without her knowing I slipped her some money. Then I over heard conversations later. She is putting a large amount of her paycheck toward retirement, eating out once a week, atleast, all things I would give up before relying on a food pantry, and infact we don't eat out or put much away because we were mostly financially struggling the last 6 years, and being very diligent to try and stop that cycle of struggle through strategic excess focus and extra work cooking and dyi. So, I and those giving to the food pantry are paying her to sustain a lifestyle that could in fact be more exorbitant than my own.
I can go on and on with situations I've seen or been a part of where donations were not given fairly. So, that word is now on my list of bad words.
So now I do something I'd like to term REAL righteous sharing. You need to know where the resource is going and why it is good for the world. It does not have to be money, it can be anything. I give seeds. I give advice (like on the forums here). I give help or extra resources i have in exchange for other things in barter. Often that would otherwise cost us more and both i and the barter enjoy (i.e. I help a person's garden, they cook me food), or something like that. I also (like many Permies) work on independent projects that further the world's sustainability at the cost of my resources.
What I've learned is not submitting to solicitations even by the most innocuous organization or person does not make you a selfish money grubber, or tight fisted, etc. It could just make you tired of lying thieves ruling the planet while riding on the backs of the generous, and therefore, finding another way.
I've struggled with my relationship to "donations" for a few years now (since I've had money to spare). I still feel a twinge of guilt every year my CPA asks me if I have any donations to deduct, and I tell him no. But a lot of my frustrations are similar to yours.
When I was younger, I worked for a few non-profits. I learned two very important lessons here: most non-profits spend most of their money on themselves, and being a non-profit (503c) has no relationship to what "non-profit" or "charity" means to any sane human being. In other words, it's just a legal definition — it is not a description of ethics. For one, my mind was blown that people could make six figure (and more!) salaries at non-profits, and not only that — it's pretty standard operating procedure. This twisted me up and confused me beyond belief. I could go on and on — how many of these organizations use donated money to further political ambitions, act as tax-shelters for the super rich, etc, etc. At this point, when someone says they are working at a 503c I assume they are probably furthering shady stuff. That's an unfair generalization, but it's what my experience with the world has taught me. Sucks.
As I've gotten older, I've grown concerned with another aspect of charities: the idea that the best way to help the poor is to give them stuff. I think the best example I can think of is what the US did to Haiti in the 90s with rice. In our efforts to help the country, we donated massive amounts of rice (food). The idea was simple: they need food, we can give it to them. But the unintended consequence of this was destroying one of Haiti's only real industries: growing rice. By flooding the market with subsidized rice, we put the farmers out of work, who sold their land to overseas (US) investors, etc, etc.
As such, I've shifted my focus for donations. I rarely donate to non-profits, instead I donate to direct-to-the-source (or as close as possible):
Medical Bills. I hate this, but the lion's share of my monetary donations goes toward my friend's unaffordable medical bills, usually gofundme or similar.
Kiva. Every once in a while I'll throw some coin at Kiva. This is much closer to a charity model I can ethically support.
Kickstarter. I love Kickstarter. It's not really "donating" but often times I will support Kickstarters just to further the author's work, even if I don't want the stuff.
Patreon. If I find someone doing something I think is useful in the world, I try and subscribe to them on Patreon, even if I don't really care about the goodies.
I don't know how righteous my strategy is, but it's one I can feel comfortable with. Should the day come where Americans aren't being impoverished by medical bills, I will have to reconsider the spread of my resources. It's a very significant investment for me right now ($xx,xxx for 3 years in a row thus far) and one that I feel happy to be able to help in a person sense, and angry that I need to help in a political sense.
Kyle, sounds like you really think about spending your money to help the world! I know calling it real righteous giving seems hotty, but there's so much society pressure to say you have to donate, and giving in other ways is not real giving, so I wanted a good, strong, name. And, it actually plays off of the word used to describe "charity" in Judaism, which translates to "righteousness," so a kinda return to the core idea of giving in this judeo-christian society.
I hand out bedding plants in the spring, my extras. I have shown to help with work. I do one Patreon. Most of the time though it is in person.
Recently had an issue with a neighbor and their extended family...I was both one reason the one cluster had to move (can we say restraining order against one of them) but by the same token, I donated useable kitchen utensils, bedding, and curtains to the cause of them taking over a house that needed a little rehab and set up housekeeping. I didn't hate them, I just wanted them to move (one of them had issues and decided my garage freezer was full of HER food--lock on freezer, new lock on garage and after some 2 am door pounds and yellings for me to let her into HER FREEZER got a restraining order--which she didn't seem to be able to understand, stay off MY property)
Surplus food, yes, and things of that nature. Elbow grease. I'm willing to help. That to me is the better donation than my cash.
I was a teenager, when I first told a solicitor that I would never donate to an organization that I am not in charge of. I made it plain and simple then, that I generally don't trust the motivations of those who collect money earned by others. I'll buy a hamburger when the kids are raising money for something, but I would never sign up for one of those monthly donation things, no matter how worthy the cause.
I have been quite generous with my time, for local organizations that need some physical help. The most charitable stuff I do is with my telephone. After I have exhausted sales at my jobs, I generally sit down for a while and call various organizations that are on my free stuff list. Community Gardens have been the beneficiary of this, when I have free reign on a landscape that is about to be destroyed.
We have an organization for Street people called, Our Place. There was a story in the newspaper where they said they were in dire need of laundry equipment. I was demolishing a duplex and had two washers and two dryers, that weren't very old and were in perfect working condition. They turned down this offer and asked if I would be willing to donate money for them to buy new ones. They will never see anything more from me.
I was in big urban and renting a house. Our lease said two cats, which we had. I found a rescue, trust me the fellow needed some care. I took him in and got him back on his paws and was trying to find him a home when the management company found out. I had one week to rehome a cat or I'd need a home. I tried calling all the no-kill shelters and rescues I could find and they were full. One place, I tell them I'm about to lose my place to live, can they take this cat. The woman starts pleading with me to take five more. I tell her plainly, if I don't get rid of this one I'm living under a bridge, can they take it or not? She starts crying and asking me to take more cats. I understand they were full, but I hung up on her. A neighbor fell in love with him and adopted him, so happy ending.
Like I have said, I'll be happy to help personally, with gently preowned, with labor, with extra food. We tried to get a 'plant a row for the less fortunate' going here and the government red tape torpedoed it. Too bad as there are a lot of needy families here, they could use it. Instead a group of us just hand out extras privately... when they tell us we can't neighborly like share an extra bag of tomatoes, then there's something wrong.
Dale, I bet that outreach just couldn't figure out why they were so short all the time either, if they were that needful, surely the working machines would have been better than nothing?
I donate but I am very selective over the organisations that I will donate to.
The National Trust (UK) - They manage many old properties in this country that are open to the public. These are really expensive to care for. However the main reason I support them is the work they do to maintain footpaths in the countries' national parks. We have some remarkable hills and mountains, but pedestrian traffic causes massive path erosion problems, in some of the most vulnerable and beautiful landscapes we have. Their path builders use natural stone to construct paths that they expect to last 200 years or more. Where they have been built the erosion problems have totally vanished, because the paths no longer turn into treacherous bogs when the ground is wet. Not only are they protecting the environment, they are making a lasting legacy that simultaneously improves access to the country for thousands. Their own working estimates put the cost at somewhere between £200 and £300 per METER of path built, due to the skilled labour and the restricted access. In the most remote places they have to helicopter in materials.
Excellent Development (Water resource development in Africa)
They have a very permaculture "product". They support communities to improve their water security by building sand dams. These trap season rainwater flows within "dry" river beds guaranteeing year round water supply for drinking, livestock and crop irrigation. This is a unique "whole landscape" perspective as far as I can see. Other organisations focus on wells, or piped water, or water purification. Excellent development transform whole landscapes. The people who benefit from this are some of the very poorest in the world. Even if some of my funds don't reach them, I know that every pound that does go into these projects has a vastly greater transformative impact on lives than a pound donated just about anywhere else.
So when I evaluate giving to charities, I ask myself - is my money better spent on this charity or one of the ones I already support. I find it difficult to justify diverting money from drought stricken africans to pretty much anyone in financial difficulties in the west, for example.
Moderator, Treatment Free Beekeepers group on Facebook.
I met a young Hustler downtown. He walked up and said "Excuse me sir, could I talk to you about something?" I said "Sure, I'm willing to talk to you about anything on Earth, that is not of a financial nature." He smiled and said "You got me there", and moved on to his next mark.
Deb, I know what you mean about the pet issue. A stray pit showed up in a friend's neighborhood, eating it's way through garbage bags. They tried to tie it up in front where the owner could locate it. It had a leash on, so we all figured out wouldn't take long and they couldn't have it eating their cats, so it had to be tied somewhere. But, after several hours, no one came so I volunteered to walk it to a vet down the street. I stopped several people to ask about it, and no one wanted anything to do with it. Even the vet's first reaction was get it away. I had to beg them to call someone to take it. So much for animal lovers. I had a similar experience with a stray cat that was run over and still alive. The vet I ran it to told me, broke at the time, they were going to charge me to put it down or I had to take it down town for a mercy killing. I think we treat people generally the same.
Here's another brain exercise: If your job is feeding the homeless and you make your livelihood off of people being homeless and needing food, how willing would you be to fire yourself because the homeless no longer need food? Sometimes people get so caught on stability they are willing to give up almost anything, including their morals and freedom.
when i give, i do it as local as possible. we give alot of our time and money to our local vfw, as we are active members and see where that money goes. i only put money in the charity jars if i know the person, or at least someone who can confirm the story. all my volunteer time is now going toward a community garden that i am getting started at our post with the local youth. i feel that giving is important, but what you give should make you feel good about it, whether it is your money, material goods, or your time and/or labor. every time there is a disaster somewhere the donation buckets come out. my money doesn't go in these, but rather i try to find a local group i trust that is organizing a drive to help the disaster area and donate time or needed items to them. this way i know i am helping someone through a tough time as opposed to helping line someones already full pockets. i am new to the whole patreon and kickstarter things, but think these are awesome ideas of ways to contribute on a more global level, and have starting to support one patreon page, maybe i will do more when my budget allows for it.
talking to anyone who will listen about permaculture in northcentral nevada.
If your goal is to give and know with 100% certainty that all your money is being used with complete and total integrity, you may never give a cent.
My wife and I give about 10% of our income, mostly to support former students who are working around the world in a variety of good organizations and for good causes. Once I write that monthly check, it's out of my hands and out of my head: let it go and be free. We seek to be wise in whom we support and yes, over the years we've had to pull people off the list because I could no longer support their work. But we've supported some of these people now for over 20 years and the work they are doing has made a tremendous difference. When they are back in the States, they visit us and stay with us for a week or more. I've visited them around the world and seen the various things they are involved in.
I look at it this way: I don't say "Oh, Karen is doing this cool work in Egypt" and "Jeff is doing this amazing project in India". I say "I have a cool work in Egypt. I'm doing this amazing project in India". When I write that check every month, it's an extension of my work around the world. I love that feeling. Its a way of multiplying myself. And if they misuse those funds, that's on them. I'll feel disappointed, but it's just money. I'll reassess if we want to continue to support them, communicate my concerns to them, but I don't lose sleep over it.
C.S. Lewis was walking along with a friend one day in London and a man approached him for some spare change. Lewis dug into his pocket and handed the man a few pounds and continued on his way. Lewis' friend said, "You know, that guy is probably just going to spend that money for alcohol and tobacco. I never give the homeless any money like that."
Lewis responded, "Well, that's probably what I would have used it on as well, so just as well him as me."
I hope you can find freedom in your giving.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
I give to a certain charity that I used to work with, that I'm convinced my money is going to something I support and being used sensibly. It is a tiny charity. Larger charities might have the presence to demand change at a higher level, but they also spend more on administration and seem to have more chance to go astray. So I'll stick to the tiny charity I trust, I can't quite get my head around how to audit a larger charity and I'm not likely to just blindly trust them.
I think this discussion needs to be clear about a couple of differences between the european and american situation . Its is not common in european situations that you can offset charitable contributions against a proportion of your tax whilst I am told that is the case in the USA also there is no demand to pay for medical bills as the europeans have mostly universal coverage
Living in Anjou , France,
For the many not for the few
You can off-set in the USA only if you donate a certain percent of your income, I believe. Or atleast, that's when it counts for anything. It's a bigger percent than most people I know can afford. I'll be doing taxes soon and be reminded of the exactitudes from the software.
Work smarter, not harder.
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