Monday, March 27, 2006

I think I need a "giving plan"!

Claire, FMF, and others have been talking about giving lately, so I thought I'd jump in. Their organizing and planning puts mine to shame, though.

Although I aim to give away 10% of my take-home pay, my disorganized and haphazard approach has meant that in practice it's been more like 5% each of the last two years. (Which is actually about 3.5% of my gross income, which I'm pretty disappointed about.) Clearly I need a "giving plan."

Currently, the bulk of my money tends to go to either social justice foundations that will do the evaluating of organizations and distributing of money for me, like Chicago's Crossroads Fund; big in-your-face disasters like the tsunami or Hurricane Katrina (although instead of giving to the Red Cross, I like to wait a little while for things to settle and figure out which organizations are doing the work that mainstream relief might be missing); and beyond that, it's mostly a bunch of $50-$100 donations to random organizations that struck my fancy at the right moment.

But I can see that I desperately need to be more organized about planning and tracking my donations. Not just so I get the totals up, but also so I can be more deliberate about my decisions. I actually have a recurring monthly donation to a group that would not even be in my top 20 of groups to give to, but because they got me on the phone and I started feeling guilty about how far I was from my giving goals, they get $10 from me every month indefinitely. Now, they're a perfectly fine group, and I won't take myself off their list until I've gotten up to 10% and there's another organization I'd prefer to switch those dollars to. But it's an example of why I need to plan better and be more thoughtful about who I want to give to.

So, I'm going to harness the power and accountability of blogging, and commit to creating a giving plan within the next month. I'll be thinking through the "why" and "who" for myself, but I'm curious about how other people handle the "how." Do you give a set amount every month? Do you save up and give every few months based on what you can afford? Do you do all or most of your giving in December?

(Please don't miss the excellent description at Tired but happy of Claire and M's giving plan, or FMF's tips on treating giving as an investment.)


Tiredbuthappy said...

Good questions. Sometimes I make a bunch of donations in December, but I'm more likely to do it at the beginning of the year when I'm feeling flush from my tax refund, the occasional financial Xmas gift, etc. Most places I just write a check, but I do really like to give online when I can because it's easier (and cheaper) for me. But I figure, too, that if the point is to give my money away, I don't want the receiver to have to pay a percentage of my gift to process my credit card payment or to pay a third party online donations intermediary. I did just recently set up one donation to come out of my credit card quarterly, and I'm hoping more places will have flexible options for regular giving.

We've talked about setting up a special ING account to save up for donations and autodepositing $50/month. But we haven't gotten around to it yet.

Looking forward to your giving plan. I'm noticing you're another social justice geek like me. I guess not all PF bloggers are in the Young Republicans club. Caitlin over at Clutter2Cash is also into socially responsible investing, another interest of mine.

Penny Nickel said...

That's a good point about the processing fees for credit cards-- ideally I'd use checks, too, but then it's a question of them getting X-$2.50 vs getting $0 because first I can't find a stamp, then it never makes it to the mailbox... I think I will at least add paying by check to my goals, though.

I'll be getting around to posting about SRI sooner or later, I'm sure! I'd love to hear your take on it.