Our annual charitable giving page

Time to get those charitable ducks in order, especially if you’re not going to be able to itemize under the new tax laws next year.

This year is probably a good one to do the Donor Advised Fund.  We’ve opted not to just because we want more flexibility right now with so much uncertainty, but your situation may be different!

Planned Parenthood : They need us more than ever before

RAINN :  help people impacted by sexual violence

CAIR :  Help Muslim victims of prejudice

Donors Choose (though, to be honest, I think the wobble chairs everyone in my [not poor] town wants are expensive and a waste of money– but there are a lot of teachers in lower income districts that want books and pencils and math supplies)  Note:  I am incapable of clicking on this without donating something.  I am such a soft touch for learning.  Ugh, #2 just sent me another link I had to fund.  Stahp!

WNDB:  We need diverse books!

ACLU :  One of the things standing in between us and fascism

EveryLibrary.org :  Helps political actions to fund public, school, and college libraries

EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) seems pretty relevant right now

Emily’s List:  Help pro-choice women Democrats get elected to office!

Previous posts:  2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, (we have a couple posts in 2012 on charity, but I’m not finding a holiday one), 2011, 2010

Grumpy Nation:  Link us up to your favorite charities!

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Communal vs. individual school supplies

Update:  FDR quote from the FDR monument in Washington, DC (Thanks Leah!).  I found it as the last slide on Peter Diamond’s history of Social Security changes.

It seems like across much of the US, school supplies for elementary school have moved from being individual (you know, where I was the only kid whose mom followed instructions and bought the 12 pack of crayons instead of the 48 pack, and a couple of kids even got the 96 pack that had gold and silver and a built-in-sharpener) to communal, where the school list will, for example, request two 24 packs of crayons, crayola-only, to be collected and distributed across the classroom.   Back in my day only the Kleenex was communal.

This has caused some complaining across the personal finance blogosphere.  There’s a reluctance to subsidize children whose parents can’t or won’t buy school supplies for their own children.

I disagree with that sentiment.  I like having communal supplies because it makes it easier for kids who can’t afford school supplies. I do wish that we could what we did when we were living in a blue state and give money to the PTA to buy in bulk instead of buying new supplies individually. And I wish our current state was like the blue state we were in before and solicited donations so the school could own the calculators instead of the kids. I feel really bad for the kids whose parents can’t afford to buy calculators or rent instruments or go on field trips or get school supplies. (The district does have a pantry that accepts donations for kids who get free and reduced lunch, but it’s mostly clothing and hygiene supplies.)

It seems so much more humane to do it communally instead of individually.  Of course, it’s still not as humane as everyone’s tax money going to support future generations of Americans, but it’s much better than the idea that kids should be penalized for their parents being poor. Or that kids should have to rely on religious charity because people aren’t willing to give a little extra unless the “worthy poor” end up being indebted to a Christian organization for something that should be a right for all Americans.

Because funding to schools keeps getting cut in the interest of lower taxes, more and more of what used to be funded by schools is now funded by parents.  We’ve had to pay for orchestra music/instrument/uniforms and every field-trip and individual science experiments and many more things on top of more historically standard calls for empty toilet paper tubes and pot-luck dishes.  We’ve been doing directed donations for other kids each time we get one of these requests for our own kid, and there have been a lot of them, but we’ve generally had to take the initiative to ask about it ourselves (only the science teacher added donations for other kids to requests). And I just feel really bad for kids on the other end whose parents can’t or won’t provide for them who have to ask the teachers what to do when they don’t have the money. I remember just not going on field trips to ball games or amusement parks as a kid– not wanting my parents to have to worry about the money and not wanting to ask for charity (my parents would have died of embarrassment)– and that would be something like once every three years since all the local educational trips were covered. There’s so much less covered here.

In contrast, the year we were living in a blue state they flat out asked for a (recommended) largish donation at the beginning of the year from people who could afford it and some smaller amount for school supplies for people who didn’t want to shop on their own and that was it– and that money covered supplies, field trips, computers, calculators, and the arts program. There were also a limited number of free musical instruments that the school owned that anyone could rent if they jumped through a few hurdles, or the richer people could pay to rent through local music stores without jumping through hurdles. Kids didn’t have to feel bad for not having stuff because it was supplied for everyone.

Obviously that’s not possible in an impoverished district.  For those, federal or state funding is really needed to fill in those gaps.  But most of the commenters on these blog posts who are complaining about having to subsidize other people’s kids can afford to pick up more supplies than their individual kid will use at the back-to-school sale, and if they can’t, then someone else can pick one up on their child’s behalf.  And they’re not complaining about the expense so much as the unfairness of having to help a child that isn’t their own (though they don’t put it in those words… I think/hope if they did they might check themselves and not share that sentiment).  It sucks that parents have to buy basic supplies when children are America’s future taxpayers and we should all be subsidizing education through taxes, but failing that, this is one area where I don’t at all mind secular charity from those who can afford it.  Especially if it means some kid doesn’t have to constantly be reminded that they don’t have what everyone else has.  And you better believe we’ll be giving additional unrequested directed donations to our children’s schools this year, especially with DC1 in a 56% poverty elementary school.

And, as a reminder, Donorschoose is a fantastic charity that helps out kids and teachers in districts where having some parents buy a second set of school supplies isn’t possible or isn’t enough.

Ask the grumpies: How do you decide on donations?

Another activist economist asks:

What is your donation strategy right now? Are you giving to more places, or more to places you were already supporting? I was torn at the end of last year and just did the latter. Trying to decide what to do for 2017.

#2 says:  Both!

#1 also says both.  I think I must have the warm glow version of donating because I am totally just giving to places as they come on my radar.  I have no strategy at all for this stuff (my only planned giving is to my alma mater and DC1’s former private school).  Something horrible happens, I donate to the relevant agency or agencies, it makes me feel a little better.

I know that’s not optimal for the organizations in question (based on graduate public finance*), but it’s optimal for me!  Plus it’s a strategy shared by a ton of people since whenever I give, the news says that organization has just received record amounts.

Another activist economist replies:

If lots of donors share that behavior, it might become optimal for the organizations (getting small amounts from huge numbers of people)? Also, maybe your strategy (or non-strategy) means you donate more over the course of a year than you would if you explicitly made a budget for donating and only gave to a few places. Which is better for the places getting your money.

I have been holding back so far this year since I’m torn. For instance, a friend of mine started supporting this local organization that gives financial assistance to women who can’t afford abortions. But is it better to give to them or Planned Parenthood or split between the two? I’m leaning toward only PP.

I’ve given to both! Because I cried super hard when my sister told me that she was working with an organization in [City] that provides rides and housing for women seeking abortions and had someone staying in her spare bedroom for 3 days because the woman had taken an 8 hour bus in from [a neighboring state] to get an abortion. So I gave $100 to that organization to make the crying stop. Planned parenthood is where we regularly give whenever one of these things comes up in the news, plus it’s where many of our blog proceeds end up going.

While DH remains employed and with the mortgage gone and our retirement accounts maxed out and DC1 no longer in private school and no firm plans going forward for major expenditures, we can afford to just give money whenever so we don’t really need a strategy (still, this has always been how we’ve donated, it’s just that before it was much smaller amounts in grad school and I’d have to cut back on our grocery expenditures to make up the difference). We should be giving more, but I keep thinking, what if we have to move to Paradise permanently? We don’t have enough money in non-retirement non-529 accounts to buy a house in a decent school district, and renting would still be difficult on just DH’s salary. So mainly it’s the emotions that get me to part with my pocketbook even though we should be giving much more than we do.

Another activist economist replies:

I look forward to reading the responses [from the grumpy nation]!*** I should probably stop thinking about what would be optimal and just give when I feel like it. The reality is that my total giving across the year would likely be higher if I did that. But it is hard to turn off the little voice in my head that asks “if you give that $50 here are you taking it from somewhere else where it would have a bigger marginal impact?”

Yeah, I don’t listen to that little voice. It gets shouted down by the, “Look, do you want to stop crying right now or not?” voice, because I have very little impulse control. And since I don’t have a set budget constraint on charitable giving, there’s more likely to be crowding in** than crowding out of giving.

Plus it probably helps that I wasn’t all that convinced by grad PF’s discussion of optimal charitable giving given that most non-profit’s revealed preferences are to go all out and accept lots of little donations from people like me (and then sell my contact info to related organizations that could crowd out my donations to them…).

Agree about the crowding in (probably true for me too) – I don’t have a fixed budget either, exactly. (Though because I am a procrastinator, during normal times I tend to do all my donations at the end of the year, so then I am thinking about the total amount I want to give for that year.) But there’s a budget in the sense that I have an upper bound even if I don’t know exactly what it is. And that is what that little voice reminds me of. Hmmm….

*Graduate PF, if I’m remembering the lecture correctly, suggests that rational individuals interested in making an actual difference rather than just feeling warm and fuzzy should donate large sums to a small number of charities so other places don’t waste money trying to get more money out of you and you’ll have a bigger impact on that organization and more say in what is done with your money. I am obviously just motivated by warm fuzzies. Plus I’m not sold that that’s a bad thing, as you will see in our discussion.

**”Crowding in” in this context means that giving some money makes it more likely that you’re going to give more later.

*** emphasis added

Grumpy nation, do you have a donation strategy?  Do you have a set amount you give each year, or do you give on a case-by-case basis?  Have you had to make any sacrifices for giving?  What makes  you decide to give?  How do you pick who to give to and how much?

Where Chacha’s donation went and why you should donate too

Chacha won our “most commenting of 2015″ contest (even though she wasn’t aware she’d entered, she had, oh, she had).  That means she got to pick where we donated our last month’s blog earnings to.  How much did we donate?  Well, we topped it up so that we could give $100.  That seems like a nice number.

Where did she pick?  Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is a non-profit that provides women’s health care and reproductive information world-wide.  They do cancer screenings and reproductive health for men and women, as well as pre-natal care and access to family planning.  They are a force for good in this world, allowing women control over their own bodies, helping families (including low income families who don’t have other options) plan the family size that is best for them, and providing health care to those who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

Unfortunately they are under attack in the US.  The only reason that we can think of is that the Patriarchy wants to keep women down.  They want poor people to remain poor.  They want women to remain permanently pregnant.  The want rich white men in control always and forever.  It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but is there any other explanation about why there’s so much push to cut government funding for non-abortion services?  (Abortion services already do not receive government funding.)

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Because of this lack of government funding, Planned Parenthood has had to scale back considerably.  In much of the country, women now have to drive hours, possibly across states, to use their services.  That means that a lot of women are no longer able to get access to safe, affordable birth control, cancer screenings, or, yes, abortions.  That means more unwanted babies being born in bad circumstances.  More women dying of preventable diseases.  More back-alley abortions.  Real people are being hurt.

What can you do?  Well, your donations won’t make up for the government cut-backs, but every dollar still helps.  Donate.

And write your government officials.  Tell them you want funding restored.  Healthcare for women is important for everyone.  It’s important for this country.

Join ChaCha in helping this important organization.  And thank you.

Annual Charitable Giving

Aiee!  We’re running out of time to do a charitable giving post!  Aiee!

So:

Planned Parenthood: Really what is needed is to get back government funding, so if you can’t give but can write a letter to your local politicians, then do that!  Heck, do both!

 

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sweet nourishment from someone’s facebook post

 

Southern Poverty Law Center: Has been doing a lot of good advocacy and illumination of racism and other hate-crimes recently.

We need diverse books:  has made a difference this past year.

Moms demand action:  I get a lot of mail from the Brady Center, but I hear a lot more from other places about Moms demand action.  I don’t know where your sensible gun legislation dollars should go, but this year I’m trying a new advocacy group instead.

Child’s Play.   Who doesn’t want to make life easier for sick kids in hospitals?

Your local library/cat shelter/food pantry– clean out your towels, etc.  also they need your volunteer time.

What are your donation recommendations this year?

Fascinatin’ Givin’

Want to mix up your donation game?  Here are some cool, weird, impactful, wonderful places to put your charitable moneys that you may not have heard of:

TOP DD: donate to support much-needed research to end mental suffering.  They run on a shoestring and produce amazing results.

Survivors Ink: helps victims of sexual trafficking overcome their experiences by transforming the tattoos with which their pimps marked them as “property”.  Cover-up tattoos are expensive and hard to do, but life-changing.

sadly, this has been pulled: Blood Sport, the video game that donates blood!  I thought this was an interesting idea, though I wouldn’t do it.  However, the project’s been taken offline.

Child’s Play: We continue to love a charity started by gamers, which gives toys to kids in hospitals around the world.  Most active around Christmas, it runs throughout the entire year.

Cat House on the Kings: a no-cage, no-kill cat shelter that lets ‘unadoptable’ or feral cats live happy, safe lives — and you can adopt the kitties that want human company!  They have wards for FIV, kittens, quarantine, indoor/outdoor, outdoor only, etc., and they really need donations right now.  They also do boarding.

The Nine Lives Foundation takes cats out of high-kill shelters and works to get them homes.  They also work on TNR programs and low-cost spay and neuters.  Help spay and neuter more cats before kitten season comes again!

Note that there’s probably a local shelter in your area that could use your help!

As you know, We need diverse books.  Be part of the solution by supporting writing workshops for people of color!

Speak your Silence:  dedicated to ending the stigma on adult survivors of sexual abuse.  A small charity that’s growing and spreading a great message of awareness, acceptance, and providing counseling.

also, why not a video?:

 

 

Give a little bit

The holidays aren’t the only time to think about charitable giving!  It’s summer and that means your local animal shelters are probably overrun with too many kittens.  If you can’t give money or be a foster house, try cleaning out your closets.  Humane societies often love donations of cat food, old clean towels, sheets, rags, paper towels, maybe office equipment, etc.

Does your local library need help with its book sale, its summer reading programs, or donations?  If you want to encourage a love of reading, try Literacy Volunteers of America.  They help with adult literacy throughout the country.  Toys for Tots takes books, in case you were wondering if it had to be toys only.  Other organizations for summer giving (time, money) include Reach Out And Read (ROAR), which promotes literacy at young ages and where you can donate a book online.  There’s also Reading is Fundamental, which gives new books to kids (some in Spanish).  Child’s Play also runs year-round, though their fundraising focus is the holidays.  They bring toys to kids in hospitals, and many hospitals have wishlists on amazon.  Even a box or two of crayons is a nice treat.

#2 gives to her alma mater in the summer.  :)  She’s also been giving to political campaigns, but perhaps that shouldn’t count.

Got more summer givin’ ideas?  Tell us in the comments.