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.



Shout-out to Rented Life…

I apologize for being slow and disorganized, but I DID make a donation for you!

Back in this post, we promised Rented Life a prize for being our most active commenter in 2013.  We declared that we would send all the profit from our Amazon affiliate links collected up to that point to the nonprofit of her choice.  She emailed us, and we sent the proceeds to her favorite animal shelter.  Now we all feel warm and fuzzy.

Note to Rented Life: We weren’t sure if you’d be ok or not with us posting a link to said animal shelter’s donation page, since you sent it via email. We can post it here if you’d like, or just ask people to suggest animal shelters to donate to in the comments. :)

Let us help you get rid of that extra dough

Give us yer monneeeyyyyyyyyyyyy…. time for the sometimes-yearly post about charitable giving.

Previous posts here and here, and still apply.  Go read them.  We’ll wait…

Ok, let’s get serious, folks.  Some charities need money and here’s some suggestions.

First off it’s perennial favorite, Child’s Play.  I already gave a bunch of crayons, bubbles, and CDs of children’s songs in Spanish to the children’s hospital near my cousins.  In addition to giving toys to kids in hospitals, this year they’re expanding to domestic violence shelters.

What’s not to love?

Next up, Planned Parenthood.  Please give them money.  Really.  Please.  They do cancer screenings and reproductive health for men and women, as well as pre-natal care and access to family planning.

Related, the ACLU performs an important role in society.  They protect everybody’s basic rights from the people who would take them away.

New suggestions this year:  Smaller charities where your dollars make an impact:

Do-Good Lab: A variety of sustainability/environment/improved quality-of-living projects in developing areas around the world.

Speak Your Silence: Overcoming the stigma of child sexual abuse through conversation.

As always, your local animal shelters and libraries need donations of time, money, and goods.  You may have also noticed that food pantries are going crazy this year with their drives– SNAP was cut so they really do need those donations.  This point, and lots of other good ones, are made in Scalzi’s holiday charity guide, so if you don’t like our suggestions, go read theirs.

(ETA:  more Scalzi charity work here [counteract a bigot], and here [help for ill writers].)

Pick one of ours, or one of yours.  Do something nice, willya?

In which I learn a lesson about myself

This year, about a day after DH started his new job, I was on the way to meet a job candidate for breakfast.  Just as I was driving into the parking lot, the radio made an announcement for one of those adopt a child for Christmas things, where you get a child’s Christmas list and buy things off it.  The point of contact, coincidentally, was the restaurant whose parking lot I was driving into.  As I walked up to my regular “meeting the job candidate” table, right at eye-level on a Christmas tree was a tag for a girl with my first name, the age of DC1.

The coincidences were too much not to be taken as a sign, so I pulled the tag and figured I’d shop for the items the next weekend.  She wanted a “Dora the Explorer doll.”  Immediately I started thinking about the Dora related merchandize I could get, shirts and socks and books and so on.

Upon closer examination, the girl’s simple request was more complicated than I had suspected.  First off, there are something like 100+ different Dora the Explorer dolls.  Since my DC1 is unusual, I asked our secretary’s daughter (age 8) what she thought this 6 year old could be wanting, and she said probably one of the big ($34) plush ones, and not one of the ($11) figures.  Her mom said she always did the Christmas adopt a child thing (one adoption for each of her kids) and suggested Toys R Us.

I reserved a Dora book at our local Barnes and Noble so we could just drop in and pick it up.  I wanted one with words and buttons to push because DC1 has loved hir button pushing Dora books for about 4 years now (even if technically they’ve been passed down to DC2).

First stop, shoes size 13… but, of course, Target hides those.  After a lot of fruitless searching, I found some acceptable sneakers shelved with the size 1s.  I tried to find some dress-shoes too, but gave up.  Target did not have any of the plush Dora dolls, and it only had one of the $29 large doll versions (Sleepy-time Dora), but her hair was totally messed up and the packaging somewhat beat up.  Then I thought, Dora underpants would be kind of neat… but they do not make Dora underpants in size 8 (or at least, Amazon says they do, but they’re hard to get and definitely not stocked at Target– they only go up to size 6 in Dora).  So I wavered between size 6 Dora underpants and size 8 regular girl’s underpants, and went with the size 6.  Similarly, Dora socks only seem to come in toddler sizes, and I was overwhelmed there not knowing quite what size I wanted or what I was looking for in socks.

I know this is ridiculous, but my MIL buys most of DC1 and DC2’s clothing, except for school uniforms, and we’re told exactly what to order from Land’s End.  The rest comes hand-me-down from various colleagues and neighbors.  I almost never have to buy kids’ clothing.  So, yes, I should know what socks go with a size 13 shoe, but I don’t.    Also DC1 is a bit on the small size, so we’re not quite there yet.

Then I made it to the clothing and had a hard time finding anything in size 7.  And I had no idea what to get.  So finally I sought out DH and DC1 (found them in the cat section, as we’ve got 3 new backyard residents we have to get acclimated and to the vet.. more on that in the future) and made them look.  That didn’t help much.  Then DH vetoed size 6 underpants for someone who was size 7, and I forgot to get the size 8 underpants when I put back the size 6.  Or maybe I thought Toys R Us would have underpants and socks (they didn’t) because we once got training pants for DC1 there (which is completely irrelevant when you’re looking for a 6 year old).

Finally I got a pair of matching black (because everyone looks good in black) yoga/sweat pants and a hoodie with colorful peace symbols on it.  All the jeans there were skinny jeans and I was concerned that a 6 year old who liked Dora the Explorer (suggesting an age closer to 5 than to 7) but was size 7 might be something other than skinny.

Then to Toys R Us.  They also did not have the plush $34 Dora doll, but they did have better versions of the $29 plush + plastic head dolls.  I picked out Baby-sitting Dora over Sleepy-time Dora, because I thought baby Boots was cute.  While there I also picked up another 3 Dora books, including one with buttons that make noise.  Realized I forgot underpants and socks.

Then to Barnes and Noble to pick up the last book.  At this point DC1 and I both had seriously low blood sugar and had to stop at the cafe which took a long time and cost more than it should have.

As I write this, I’m trying to figure out when I’m going to make it back to the store to get some final clothing items, or if I’m just going to take it in as-is.  She didn’t ask for underwear and socks, but a lot of the kids do.  (Why are underpants and socks so important?  Because you can’t buy them used and you rarely get them as hand-me-downs.)  It would also be nice to get a lighter weather shirt too, and not just the hoodie.

So what did I learn?  Turns out I HATE shopping.  I seriously hate shopping.  (Also I learned that almost all Dora clothing maxes out at 6x.)  It’s not about the money– we’re feeling pretty flush in the pocket and given that most of the kids ask for bikes, spending another $20 on books and $20 on the clothing set and $10 on underpants and $5 on socks (and probably another $20 on shirts if I can find any, possibly $20 on a dress if I can find any) isn’t much in the grand scheme of things for us (though it surely is quite a bit for someone who qualifies for this program).  It’s about having something in mind and then not being able to find it and then having to make choices and having to think, “what if she looks terrible in this color?  what if it doesn’t fit?  what if she hates this?  what if she already has this?  what if this is the wrong kind?”  And then more sinister thoughts, “Should I include the receipt?  If I do, what if someone exchanges the gifts for something not for the kid?  If I don’t, what if the clothing is too small or this is the wrong doll?”  (In the end, I went with including the Toys R Us receipt but not the Target receipt, mainly because we bought other stuff at Target and didn’t get a separate gift receipt.)  I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with all these decisions.  And it took so much time just trying to find things.

Next year if I get the same sign, I’m totally going to make a note to myself to just go to the damn webpage and press the “donate here and we’ll shop for you” button.

(Update:  Walmart, which we normally avoid for various reasons, allows you to purchase online and pick-up at the store, similarly to what we did with B&N.  And they have more size 7 stuff in stock than Target did.  And they have size 8 Dora underpants.  $40 of clothing later, including a very pretty black and white dress, I feel as if I’ve done a reasonably decent job.  Also I went through MIL’s size 7 offerings still with tags since DC1 always has more clothes than ze needs and added a bunch of shirts of various colors and styles.  Still, next time I’m just gonna give the ~$100.)

Do you enjoy the process of shopping?  Would you pay someone to do it for you if you could?

Man’s search for meaning Part 2: Plant your garden

The Penny-Arcade guys are awesome.  They started out as a couple of dudes with a web-comic.  They’ve taken that web-comic and their fame and channeled it for something much bigger.  Yes, they run conventions, but more impressively, they started an awesome charity called Childs Play.

This charity, aimed at showing that video games are not evil incarnate, and that gamers can do good, connects children’s hospitals with games, books, toys, and other resources to help sick children keep their minds off their illnesses.  Donations started small– one hospital and the PA guys’ garages as storage facilities, and they made deliveries themselves.  Now they’ve ratcheted up into a large non-profit that connects with and ships directly to hospitals.

You can donate here.

And now for some negative griping.

Compare the PA guys to the onanistic navel-gazing you see from other movements.  The minimalists.  The travel the world folks.  The motivationalists.  [Note:  we are not saying that all minimalists, world-travelers, self-helpers etc. are onanistic con-artists, but you know they exist.]

The Penny Arcade dudes are real.  They have authenticity.

So much of that motivational crap seems so hollow and insincere, aimed just at making money off other people.

For the most part, they’re not actually doing anything.

The P-A guys, OTOH, are teh awesome.

And that, perhaps, is why I don’t expect them to get mid-life crises.  When you’re busy doing things that are real, you don’t have time to feel like life is meaningless.

also:  I like the word onanistic

Planning charitable giving

Knowing how much to spend on charity each year can be difficult.  If you’re not in a religion that tells you hey, you have to give 10% if you want to be saved, making the decision of how much to spend on oneself, how much to spend on charity, and how much to save for our own future rainy days is not easy.

And then there’s the guilt whenever you look at worthy causes.  Do I really need a year of lattes or to pay down my mortgage faster etc. if that means a kid doesn’t get mosquito netting and dies of malaria or another kid could go to private school or a cat’s life isn’t saved?  (And, of course, who is more worthy?  The kid in the developing country who could get malaria, the kid in the inner city who won’t get as good an education, or the fluffy kitty cat?  And where does the ACLU fit in?  How can we justify any spending at all?)

This XKCD comic does a great job of exploring that dilemma.

On a more serious note, it can be good to budget one’s charity. Choose a dollar amount or a percentage amount of income or some other target, just like any other portion of what you spend. Then plan your spending around that. Like the comic, you don’t want giving to be a chore and something that causes you deprivation… if that happens you might stop giving at all.

By planning charitable giving first, just like you plan savings first, you should be able to spend guilt free, because your spending choices are being made at the expense of other spending choices, not at the expense of giving.

In reality:  I’m a soft touch… when people ask for good causes and good organizations I have a really hard time saying no, especially for things that hit education, kitties, or cancer.  So I do a fair amount of unplanned charitable giving compared to the regular planned giving we do.  But I’m also not as generous in terms of the amount I give as I thought I would be back before I started making a real income.  Part of that is that we’re saving for future charitable giving (on DH’s relatives… turns out a Pell grant pays 100% of community college if you’re truly poor… I should update on that situation), but it’s still not as generous as I’d thought we would be at this income level.  Lifestyle inflation does creep up on a person.  And there are so many tax-advantaged savings vehicles we haven’t maxed out yet.  Not to mention the fact that primary residences can be expensive.  Maybe we will give more later, maybe we won’t.

Do you give?  Do you plan charitable giving?  How do you plan charitable giving?

Why do you give to charity?

House of peanut notes in her recent review of All the money in the world that her reasons for giving to charity are different than the ones in Vanderkam’s book.

Vanderkam, she says, talks about the “selfish joy” that giving gives to people.  However, house of peanut “couldn’t relate to the idea of getting personal satisfaction or pleasure out of giving to charity.”

Instead, house of peanut says she gives to charity because it is the “right thing to do.”

Economists have many theories for why people give to charity.  From my reading of the Vanderkam chapter, she subscribes to the “warm glow” theory of charitable giving.  In this theory, people give to charity because it makes them feel warm and fuzzy to do so.

Another theory is altruism– that people want a specific level of public goods to be provided, and if they government isn’t providing, then they step up.  (Under this theory, people would *prefer* taxes to charitable giving, because charitable goods are under-provided because of the free-rider problem, but in reality, they don’t tend to prefer taxes.)

Prestige is another theory– people give because they want people to know that they give because it makes them feel superior.  Related to this idea is one of social cohesion– you give because it provides a sense of community with other people interested in that cause.  Giving greases social wheels, so to speak.

Yet another theory is one in which people give because they expect something back.  This idea is part of “social insurance”.  The idea is that if you give to your church when times are good, they will give back to you when times are bad.

And, of course, there’s giving because it provides power and helps you shape agendas.  You can see a lot of that this year with the SuperPACs funding campaign ads and controlling local elections from a national scale.

There are many many other theories of charitable giving, not just from economics but from other social science disciplines.  We haven’t nailed this one down yet, though there is ample evidence for the “warm glow” theory and not so much for pure altruism.  But in reality the reasons are probably multi-faceted.

I give to charity for several reasons:
1. I’m a soft touch when it comes to stories about hungry kids or kids not getting education or kitties not having homes. Giving money helps the crying stop (is that feeling warm glow?)
2. Sometimes our donations actually make a difference (see local private school)
3. Sometimes donating is in our best selfish interest (see: donating to alma mater to get USNews rating up, donating to DC’s class to get extra activities)

Update:  eemusings with her reasons.

If you give, why do you give?

Monday money: Be nice. (charitable giving)

We here at Grumpy Rumblings know that you thirst to discover our wisdom in regards to charitable giving.  At this time of year, a lot of people, including us, donate more money than we do year-round.  What follows are suggestions for you, the reader, of things that are awesome (and a few that aren’t).  You can also give to these charities in someone else’s name as a gift for the person who has everything.

Recommended charities that could use a little moolah:

  • Girl Scouts of America.  Their cookies are tasty and the organization has always emphasized diversity.
  • Goodwill.  If you don’t have any money, clean out your closet.
  • Planned Parenthood.  Providing sexual and reproductive healthcare for men and women — not just birth control & abortions but all sorts of vital health care and education. Every child a wanted child.
  • Child’s Play.  Won’t someone think of the children?  Toys for kids in hospitals is unassailable. When someone said gamers were violent and antisocial, these guys founded a charity.
  • Heifer International.  You can donate cute baby animals and know that HI emphasizes training for self-sufficiency and community collaboration.  If you do it through this link, you can even get cool stuff from fantasy author Pat Rothfuss (which, by the way, go buy all his books right now).
  • Your local…
    • library needs your donations and probably your political advocacy, too, if you wanna write a letter
    • food bank
    • animal shelters need your time and goods as well as money
    • school scholarship fund
  • Donors Choose.  #2 is really into this one.  You can fund math and science projects for inner-city kids, how cool is that?  Or really anything you want … do it or the pigeon will shank you.
  • Reading is Fundamental.  Because books are good and everyone should have access.
  • Living Beyond Breast Cancer — they help support and advocate for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  They helped #2’s mother with the emotional aspects of her recovery.
  • (a further list from Scalzi’s blog is here)


  • Boy Scouts of America.  Their stance on homosexuality is unacceptable.
  • Salvation Army.  Also hates the gays, is anti-gay marriage, and says that homosexual people should be celibate.  (Look it up if you don’t believe me!) [Disclosure:  #2 donated when the SA were the first folks to get to Katrina victims, but that was a special occasion.  They still send her lots of mail.]
  • Susan G. Komen foundation participates in Pinkwashing and is a big offender in what Twisty calls the Breast Cancer Brand Woman. Cancer is degrading enough already.

Are there any worthy causes our readers would like to plug?  Have at it in the comments!

Pop tabs…

Ronald McDonald house is a charity that helps fund housing for relatives of folks who need hospital care away from home.  Ronald McDonald house accepts the tabs from soda cans as donations.

Our students (who are supposed to be trained in cost-benefit analysis) collect them every year and ship them over to the nearest Ronald McDonald House, in a nearby city.

One semester the organizer emailed about the fantastic job they’d done.  They’d collected 3 pounds of tabs (~6000 tabs) and sent them to Ronald McDonald House in a nearby city.

I wondered how much money they’d donated.  Looking up prices for aluminum (there’s nothing special about tabs), prices were going from 10 cents to 28 cents per pound.  The recent high was $0.50 to $0.70 per pound.

So she collected under $3? I bet shipping cost her more than that. If she had collected 6000 pennies instead of pop tabs, she’d have $60.

Now, why does Ronald McDonald house accept pop tabs if they’re really not all that profitable?  Snopes has a very interesting article about the original urban legend… people thought they could donate pop tabs for charity long before any charity actually accepted them.  Ronald McDonald house figured since the urban legend existed, they might as well latch on to it in order to spread awareness for Ronald McDonald house, so it’s a bit of publicity, which is something many non-profits can use more of.

Still, it would be better to harness those energies more productively, like maybe collecting actual cans and redeeming them locally, donating the proceeds.  Or collecting pennies… or dimes… or dollars.

Yes, it is great to do fundraising, and it is great to raise awareness.  But if your goal is donating money … well, take a second to think about what you’re doing.  If you’re spending more on shipping or gasoline costs than you’re giving in donation, there’s a better way to do what you’re trying to do.  If your goal is raising awareness… there’s better ways to do that too, though probably not as low effort.

So… collect pop tabs?  Well, run the numbers yourself and think about what your goals are and if there’s a more efficient alternative to reach those goals.  Maybe sending a check will meet your goals better.  Maybe organizing a drive for cans and donating the proceeds.  Maybe volunteering.  And always remember that it is still better to do something than nothing.

As was pointed out to me on GRS, one benefit of poptabs is that they don’t attract insects and they store easily.  Same with pennies, but perhaps in this day and age they’re not as easy to come by.  So maybe poptabs are the way to go.  But think hard about what you’re doing and why before just blindly deciding to do something.  If you’re spending more than $3 on shipping less than $3 of poptabs… maybe there’s a better way.