Author Topic: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?  (Read 1358 times)

jennifers

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Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« on: December 31, 2018, 09:53:00 AM »
I have a problem where I make more money than I ever expected I would. This leads to some guilt about the amount of money I have. This causes me to donate to various charities in a non-logical manner. This causes me to feel some guilt about how much I've donated and if I've donated to the right places.

Does anyone else struggle with this or have any good ways to think about it? How do you decide how much to donate every year? Any good books on the subject?

I make most of my donations to a local animal rescue. This year I gave lots of cash and purchased a new washing machine for them. I'm also considering donating the money needed for a young dog's heart surgery. (The dog is so sweet and deserving- It's about 2000$ for the surgery).
Sometimes I feel like a dumbass donating to this when I could make much bigger changes in the world by donating to places that could make a bigger impact with that money. For example, providing clean water and deworming meds for developing nations. I'm also worried that none of this matters due to global warming which will impact billions in the coming years. Perhaps I should be donating to 350.org instead???

Or maybe I should just hoard the money for myself. There's a sort of disconnect in my mind with living frugally and then giving money away for free.


Arbitrage

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maizeman

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2018, 10:09:39 AM »
Sometimes I feel like a dumbass donating to this when I could make much bigger changes in the world by donating to places that could make a bigger impact with that money. For example, providing clean water and deworming meds for developing nations. I'm also worried that none of this matters due to global warming which will impact billions in the coming years.

There is some value to looking at where you can give money most effectively to achieve the ends you care about. However the solution to that question isn't universal, it depends on what ends you DO care about. But with regards to your second point (global warming).

Let's say that tomorrow it was announced that astronomers have identified an 20 mile wide asteroid that was going to hit the earth with 100% certainty is 15 years. Would that make it any less moral to save animals or cure sick children between now and then?

I would argue that reducing the suffering of innocents in the world is a worthy goal regardless of our ultimate fate either as individuals or as a civilization.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2018, 10:22:56 AM by maizeman »

OzzieandHarriet

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2018, 10:22:11 AM »
One piece of advice that makes sense is itís better to give larger amounts to fewer causes. Smaller  donations often end up costing the organization because they spend it all on all that fundraising stuff you get.

We chose a handful of causes and stick with those.

citizen24128

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2018, 10:52:35 AM »
You may be interested in investigating Peter Singer and his thoughts on "effective altruism." This video is one place to start: https://www.ted.com/talks/peter_singer_the_why_and_how_of_effective_altruism

mozar

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2018, 11:03:31 AM »
If you want we can help you brainstorm ideas. Personally I would set up a college scholarship if I had that kind of money. There is also a list, I forgot what it's called, where they have the ratios of administrative costs to their programs. The assumption being that you don't want to give a lot of money to a place with extravagant CEO salaries.
If pets are your thing you have a ton of options. The problem with donating abroad is that it's much harder to see where your money is going and a lot of problems in emerging countries are due to money mismanagement by dictatorships. If you really want to donate money overseas you should go there and ask them what they need money for.

mozar

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2018, 11:28:15 AM »
Also, since you seem open to suggestions, consider why there is suffering.  Do you live in a state that bans puppy mills? If not consider funding a politician who is running on an anti puppy mill ticket, or pay for a full page ad in the local paper to raise awareness.

Annie101

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2018, 04:33:23 PM »
For the past  few years, we have donated about 3% of our gross income to charities. However, we are trying to increase it to 5% or more. We have a couple things that we like to donate to, such as the food bank in our neighborhood,  but we also have a few small things that we do every year  such as donate to the PTA and school actions.   We just came up with a plan for 2019.   We decided to automate donations to the food bank monthly to hopefully keep us more consistent and help us increase the percentage.   We are so fortunate, I think it's important to donate to others.   Donating to animal causes seems like a great idea if that something you are passionate about .

Goldielocks

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2018, 04:56:14 PM »
Awesome to you for donating.

The best place to donate is somewhere that aligns with your morals and values.    Bonus points if you can also have a time / in person / see results of your donation take effect.

The only thing I would suggest, is to take stock of what values / goals are for donating, then determine a budget, then investigate / review the top 5-8 charities that work in those areas -- everything from political lobbying (against puppy mills?  endangered animals?) to hands-on charities locall, to national / regional charities.

As you are an animal lover, have you also approached a few different vet offices for their opinions on where the $$s locally could be best used or their recommended charity organization and why?   

In your research, you need to figure out how much $'s goes to admin and overhead and how much to the actual charity program.   For the dog's surgery -- is the vet / clinic donating a large portion of the cost?  Will the charity's volunteers take care of and feed the pup after?  How many employees do they have and how much are they paid?  Does that seem reasonable to you?  etc. etc.

Good luck!  I found that when I did the above for my own questions, that it really solidified for me WHY I donate as well as HOW and it was very rewarding.

Fresh Bread

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2018, 05:07:16 PM »
In terms of figuring out how much, you could try increasing the amount / percentage each year until it feels comfortable?

And to quote a cheesy line: "Saving a dog won't change the world, but it will change the world for that one dog"

Sailor Sam

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2018, 05:27:12 PM »
Charitable giving often comes down to personal philosophy. But here's some guidelines that have come from the forum over the years:

1. Decide on a % of either gross or net income. 10% has some historical connections, but there's nothing saying you can't choose less, or even more.

2. Decide on a charity. Many people here endorse The Life You Can Save philosophy. That's a book by Peter Singer, but the recap is that the highest level of morality comes from maximizing the amount of good your charitable dollars can accomplish. This philosophy also endorsed Givewell, which is used to evaluate the efficiency of charities. Others choose local or national charities, and feel helping closer to home outweighs 'inefficiences.'

3. Decide if you will give real-time, or save for a donor advised fund.

4. Decide if giving is important to you now, or if you prefer to wait until you're out of debt. If charitable giving is part of your moral code, waiting might not be right. On the other hand, if your debt+charity leave you or your dependents vulnerable then giving now isn't the moral choice.


I also had some struggle between giving to charity, and actually reaching the forum coveted 50% savings rate. It took me about a year of processing to get it all straightened out inside my head. The final key was to put charity 'above the line', so it was removed from net income calculations, and therefore removed from net savings. A simple solution, but man it took a lot of thinking to determine is was the correct simple solution. So, while you're not alone in the struggle, you will have to come up with your own rules. It's a little bit of a bummer, but the forum can help with each new existential spasm as you find your path.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2019, 01:10:37 PM »
I like giving tangible things to local organisations that I know. For instance, there's an animal rescue center that puts up on facebook a list of the things they're low on or need, and you just drop in some of that. It's often not stuff that you would need to buy. I gave them a roll of long ago left over floor vinyl when they asked for washable and reusable floor coverings. I did check with them first if it would be helpful. They're also always in need of shredded paper for bedding, so I take all the stuff from work to them.

There's a shelter for women and children here that has a similar facebook set up. They're always after good quality blankets and sheets, so I keep an eye out for them in thrift shops and launder them before I drop them in.

I rarely give money. Only really when I know they can spent it a lot more efficiently than I can. The only one I donate money to at the moment is a vet that takes in injured/sick wildlife for free, and trained volunteers care for them. Antibiotics and xrays cost $, even if everyone is donating their time.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2019, 02:08:11 PM »
Iím loving kiva.org. Itís a charity that provides micro-loans to people globally. You contribute to their loan and get paid the money back, which you can cash out or reloan.  I just keep reloaning to people. I feel itís aligned with mustachianism and helping others to help themselves. You also can donate to the charity to help their operations.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 05:01:23 AM by MrThatsDifferent »

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2019, 05:43:37 PM »
Iím loving kiva.org. Itís a charity that provides micro-loans to people globally. You contribute to their loan and get paid the money back, which you can cash out or reloan.  I just keep reloaning to people. I feel itís aligned with mustachianism and helping others to help themselves. You also can doneate to the charity to help their operations.

THIS!
Microfinancing is the only way forward for most of the world. People have been asking me for money for starving African children for all of my adult life. It doesn't work. Microfinancing allows people to take control of their futures and build their own communities with what THEY need, not what some western agency thinks they need.  These little loans promote accountability, dignity and ambition. They're brilliant.

BicycleB

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2019, 06:31:41 PM »
@jennifers, I don't have a sensation of heavy emotional struggle right now or a lotta lotta extra cash, but have thought seriously about these same issues for sure. Have been a full time social justice activist at times, worked on issues for years through community organizations, campaigned politically, helped make bits of history. My FIRE was more accidental than my impact, though there was more chance than I want to admit in both paths. Fwiw:

1. Keep going... any confusion or negative feelings are obstructions that need not be permanent. Almost of all of us experience something like them, though, so no shame - they're very common. It'll get better.
2. Hopelessness is the enemy of everything good. Keep going.
3. Great decisions you already made!
4. There are a lot of different paths toward doing something good. One formula is not always better than all of the others, so that if you found it, now you'd have The Right Answer. But there are answers that are better than most because people did some hard work already to develop a very good answer. The suggestions upthread are excellent examples of good answers. It's okay to pick the good answer that suits you. Your money, your time, your brain, your caring can all have some impact in many places, many ways. It's worth searching for high impact examples you can feel good about, just like you would search carefully for a car or bike or apartment or friend. Maybe even a spouse level search, given that you have a large amount of potential largesse. But don't expect perfection, be glad with something good and move forward.
5. Take your time and iterate.
6. Do something. (You're already doing this. Awesome!!!)
7. Fwiw, I think it's good to:
a. Set a minimum, like 10%.
b. Set a maximum, such as "never reduce my stash below what is healthy for me, plus a safety margin"
c. Remember that most accomplishments of the past were done by uncertain people making moves that were doubted by others, and sometimes doubted by themselves. So what you do today can be just as effective as all the doers of the past.
8. Meet other donors, and doers.
9. Donate by character. If you like to diversify, pick three causes. If you like to focus, pick one. If you like to feel caring, take care of the puppies. If you want impact, compare the CharityNavigator vs Givewell approaches and get the opinions of wise people on which is better. You can do this. Keep going!
10. Congratulations on undertaking this.

Re the global warming thing... don't let that stop you. I myself put about 25% of my efforts toward that, but 75% elsewhere (25% US social justice, 25% foreign mostly oriented towards women, 25% personalized giving though I am slack with this because it intimidates me). There's always a looming threat. Do what you can with what you have. We're all in this together, and I thank you.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2019, 04:44:50 AM by BicycleB »

Drole

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #15 on: January 05, 2019, 03:24:16 AM »

I rarely give money. Only really when I know they can spent it a lot more efficiently than I can. The only one I donate money to at the moment is a vet that takes in injured/sick wildlife for free, and trained volunteers care for them. Antibiotics and xrays cost $, even if everyone is donating their time.

Really agree with this sentiment....are they really spending your money more efficiently than you?  Getting them the stuff they need at a good price (buying used blankets vs new) maximizes impact for all (ok, except the folks selling the new blankets).  I find many non-profits don't have the time to find the best deals. 

Then again, if you don't have the time to do this, find a low-overhead organization that matches your values as others have said.

SunnyMoney

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2019, 07:01:59 PM »
I have a problem where I make more money than I ever expected I would. This leads to some guilt about the amount of money I have. This causes me to donate to various charities in a non-logical manner. This causes me to feel some guilt about how much I've donated and if I've donated to the right places.

Or maybe I should just hoard the money for myself. There's a sort of disconnect in my mind with living frugally and then giving money away for free.

Is it working?  When you donate does the feeling of guilt go away?  Guilt is a complicated emotion to deal with.  It sounds like your guilt is self imposed rather than coming from an external source (e.g. family member).  Perhaps take a step back and take notice of the story you are telling yourself that is leading you to feel guilty.  Is there someway to re-frame those thoughts so they invoke a positive emotion instead?

For example,
"Wow, I make so much money and I'm not doing anything with it. It just sits there in investments, making more money.  Do I really deserve this wealth?  Sure I've worked a bunch and done my job but it was no big deal.  Heck I kinda enjoyed working.  Meanwhile there are others struggling to do such noble things."

Instead,
"Last week when I did XYZ and headed off that train wreck.. Phew my employer/customers are really fortunate that I'm paying attention and making sure they get what they need.  I'm glad they appreciate it by paying me so much money.  Between that, and the frugal lifestyle choices I make to live lightly on this earth, I now have spare resources.  This is great!  My work and lifestyle are having a ripple effect to other organizations that make the world a better place."


BicycleB

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2019, 11:32:24 AM »
I might have misread the original post. I interpreted the problem as guilt about inefficiency in giving, not about whether giving made sense. OP, if the primary problem is that you are only donating because you feel guilty about making so much, please take my earlier detailed remarks with a grain of salt.

You don't have to donate at all. I personally think it's better to donate some, but you get to decide. To decide if you donate, and if so, when and how. I do think 10% is a good rule of thumb, because it's unlikely to materially damage your safety but likely to do some good and relieve some "rational" guilt - any logical reaction to the highly varied distribution of wealth that our world has. I do think that the lower bound I offered - keep what you need for a safe joyous life, plus a safety margin - is also logical. But those are just ideas. You get to decide.

Obviously there is the possibility that guilt is a sort of emotionally logical response to an unequal world where you get an extraordinarily large share. But being wracked by guilt feelings sounds unpleasant, and may be unnecessary. Choices can be made and life lived without guilt. Is enjoying yourself something you struggle with, or are you already glowingly happy outside of this guilt feeling? Perhaps you need a year of no giving, with a focus on learning to enjoy your own life most deeply. Regardless of how you proceed, I wish you the best in gaining a healthy, fairly happy perspective.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 12:10:56 PM by BicycleB »

pressure9pa

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2019, 06:36:15 AM »
I've struggled with a form of this as well in my FIRE planning.  For the vast majority of my adult life, we have always given 10% of our gross income to charities.  (Mainly local churches, schools, and a clinic in rural Haiti where I have volunteered in the past.)  My issue is that when I retire early with the physical and mental ability to keep going, I feel I'm cheating those charities out of their 10%.  When I budget my spend in FIRE, I usually include those gifts as an ongoing expense. 

SnackDog

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2019, 07:32:44 AM »
My employer matches contributions so I feel compelled to squeeze them for every nickel of the max allowed match, which is five figures. I give it to a local charity that I know quite well for over a decade. 100% of the donation goes to supplies, equipment and labor to assist local people in need, get them fed, on their feet, and into available treatment.

When (if!) I retire I can become more involved directly.  My employer match goes down by 2/3 once I retire, so need to keep shoveling the max donations in while still working.

CanuckExpat

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2019, 04:17:39 PM »
Any good books on the subject?

MMM did a book review on "The Life You Can Save"
This may also be relevant: How to Give Money (and Get Happiness) More Easily

3. Decide if you will give real-time, or save for a donor advised fund.

I think donor advised funds are great, and we have had good experience with using one. The latest set of US tax changes may have taken away some, but not all, the tax advantages of using a DAF, unless you are really putting a lot away in a year.

That said, I found our DAF was great to get over analysis paralysis, since it received a large amount of money in one year, all dedicated for charity, and we can take our time distributing funds out.

With the funds already in the DAF, I've found it works great for us to make gifts to in people's honor for charities we believe they would support.
I recently had a relative pass away from cancer; we made a memorial gift to a cancer research fund in her name and the charity mailed a card to her family acknowledging the gift. We got a note later from her daughter saying she very much appreciated the donation, much more than another wreath or set of flowers they would had to have thrown out a week later.