Monday, June 6, 2011

Payday = Give Day

My family gives every month to four charities. Each gift is relatively small, but over the course of a year, we give more than 1 percent of our income. One gift is charged automatically to a credit card; three are paid by our bank after I set them up as recurring “bill payments.” Interestingly, only one charity regularly sends a gift acknowledgement.

Gleaners Food Bank sends a letter and an envelope for another gift each month. Thank you!

Doctors Without Borders sends “updates,” which include appeals for more gifts. They also sell or trade their mailing list to numerous other groups, which is a common practice.

Indiana Youth Group (IYG) sent a sort-of thank you at the end of 2010, which was really an appeal for more money. This is the first time we’ve heard from them since starting our contributions in fall 2009. Not even a newsletter in more than a year.

The executive director of Ensemble Music Society contacted us after our first gift, also in fall 2009, to ask for the full amount of our “pledge” to the capital campaign. Since the gift is unrestricted with no end date, I couldn’t answer his question.

So, you might ask, WHY do we keep giving to these groups. Mostly it gets down to mission and how these groups work toward goals that we hold as individuals. While research says giving is irrational, I see our donations as “votes” for our values.

As I’ve said before, we are committed to trying to assure better food security, so the Gleaners gift is a no-brainer for us. The gifts to Doctors without Borders reflect daughter Ann’s interests. Plus I like all of the address labels, gift wrap and note cards from the other groups that buy or rent that list! IYG ties to the other daughters’ volunteer work, first Elle and now Lia, with the high school Gay Straight Alliance. The Ensemble Music Society reflects my husband’s strong interest in high culture, even though he no longer attends their concerts.

Our secular giving is about average. American donor households give one percent of their income to secular causes. Households that participate in worship services give two percent of their income to religion, on average.

I’d love to double our giving to secular causes so that we could give 2 or even 3 percent of our income in total, going even further than the Foundation Beyond Belief. We’d probably add more charities, rather than increase the gifts we make now. The stack of requests just keeps growing – four more last week by mail.

Just writing this makes me realize that it is time we re-evaluate the organizations we give to. We set up those automatic payments more than 18 months ago. If we are “voting” for our values, we need to check in with each other about what might have changed since then. My husband will probably have the same choices, but the teens' preferences have likely shifted, and our giving should reflect those.

P.S. In addition to the automatic withdrawals, last week we wrote checks to Relay for Life for the June 4 event. This week, I’ll make our contributions by credit card in memory of Bob Payton, $88 to Center on Philanthropy Scholarship Fund and $22 to Payton Library, following the votes on the poll. Thanks!

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