Plan Your Giving

During hard economic times, fundraisers for charities get desperate.  Their endowment, if any, has shrunk, former less-well off patrons are less certain of their wage incomes, and are less prone to give; well-off patrons have fewer appreciated assets to offer.

I’ve been getting a spate of such calls recently.  I tell them that I plan my giving each year, and do not give to anyone else, no matter how worthy.  If they want to be considered for next year, send data to me via postal mail.

They never send it, at least not yet.  They only want the money now, not in one year.  If that ‘s the attitude, I don’t want to give.  For years I have wanted to give money to the local volunteer firefighters, and I talked to the chief, and said that I would give, but for my charitable giving trust, I needed their tax ID number.  He said that he would certainly get it to me.  He never did.

We all have different goals for charitable giving.  I’m not telling you where to give.  But analyze how much is spent on the mission in question versus supporting organizational infrastructure.  You want to see a high ratio there.

I only give to organizations where I know those that run the place; sometimes I help out.  But when I trust an organization entirely, my gift goes to  “where most needed.”  Why? Because someone has to support the internals of the organization in order for the mission aspects of the organization to operate.  If you know that the leaders are minimizing costs, acting honestly, and dead-set on pursuing the mission, give without restrictions.

And that brings up another aspect of my giving.  Give big to a few, and nothing to others.  The few that you support you should know well, to the degree that you might not only give money but time.  Charitable giving should be an expression of what you value most in society.  And by focusing, you will only support worthy causes, rather than “a little here and a little there,” where you lack of oversight allows charities to misspend money.

Final notes: by planning your giving, you eliminate those that make emotional appeals, and give rationally to what you would like to see prosper.  At worst, leave a small percentage of total giving for unexpected appeals.   One value of this is that it starves the paid fundraisers that eat up a large part of the money given, who are not a charity at all, and charities should be discouraged from using them.

In the end this will reward the best charities, and starve the worst, which is a win-win.