Author Topic: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?  (Read 3084 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.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #21 on: April 22, 2019, 10:21:40 AM »
A person I only know thru a mutual friend gave me something of value worth a bit more than $150. She no longer needed it. I happen to use this very item and it saved me from buying it. I wanted to express my thanks and asked the mutual friend what that might be, thinking flowers or gift card. She suggested a donation to this person's non profit charitable organization. I thought that was a good idea but I have no idea how much to give. I don't want to appear cheap. What do you all think would be a reasonable gift to this charity?

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #22 on: April 22, 2019, 08:14:40 PM »
Congrats on your success!  Since you asked, here's a book that I have found personally helpful on how to give effectively.  It also covers how giving can sometimes hurt others, which seems counterintuitive, but is true. 

We no longer simply donate to things based upon that book and also upon my personal experience.  Instead, we give to things or places where we're personally invested and can see that the money isn't being wasted.  Also, there's an incredible amount of fraud and waste in the charity world.  And many charities do things that aren't helpful (if excluding the charity's own drive to continue existing), are self-motivated, or actively harmful to those they purport to help.

With all of that said, we're huge proponents of giving, but we took a lesson from a friend and decided to focus our giving on fewer places and ones where we can actively and personally invest in what's going on.  (It also means we no longer give a one-off donation only to then receive so many mailers, calls, and flyers that they've wasted more than we've given them in the first place...what a waste!)  It has been a wonderful change for us. 

And as for the guilt, that's something else: you don't feel guilty if you're the tallest one in a room, or the fastest, or the smartest, do you?  So why the radical egalitarianism with regard to income?  You've been given a gift.  You can generate value. 

Use it wisely, but there's no reason to dislike it or feel bad about it.  God gives us gifts to use to serve others.  In fact, since you're here, hopefully you're moving towards a more fruitful life already and certainly a more generous one (as we can tell by your thread), so more power to you - I don't see anything to feel bad about.  That's how the world is, and the diversity of it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Dr Kidstache

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #23 on: April 23, 2019, 03:00:49 AM »
A great resource for effective donations is the University of Pennsylvania Center for High Impact Philanthropy. Has guides for most effective organizations (both by specific organizations and type of project).
http://www.impact.upenn.edu

Eurotexan

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #24 on: April 23, 2019, 06:05:36 AM »
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.

I love this idea! Iím going to take a look. Great info, thanks!

StarBright

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #25 on: April 23, 2019, 07:49:38 AM »
We gave Kiva giftcards to our family for Christmas this year -  A few of them really loved it!




RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #26 on: April 23, 2019, 01:05:04 PM »
We gave Kiva giftcards to our family for Christmas this year -  A few of them really loved it!

I've never heard of that before.  I love that idea!  Much better than 'A donation has been made in YOUR name to [the charity of MY choosing]'.  The gift card actually lets the recipient choose what's important to them and how they want to make a difference.  Thanks for mentioning that!

Fomerly known as something

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #27 on: April 25, 2019, 04:46:55 AM »
Just like with saving, I have automatic systems in place for charity.  I have several I donate to on a monthly basis via an autodraft but for those "random" instances I have a dedicated sinking fund account that I drop a designated amount into bi-weekly (when I'm paid), I make a "one time" donation once it either hits a predetermined amount or when the whim strikes.  If it's just a "friend's birthday campaign" or whatever, I just toss them $10-100 and it comes out of regular cash-flow.  So your washer example would come out of my charity sinking fund.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #28 on: April 25, 2019, 06:59:47 AM »
We gave Kiva giftcards to our family for Christmas this year -  A few of them really loved it!

I've never heard of that before.  I love that idea!  Much better than 'A donation has been made in YOUR name to [the charity of MY choosing]'.  The gift card actually lets the recipient choose what's important to them and how they want to make a difference.  Thanks for mentioning that!

I only give to charity in people's names when I know the charity they would choose. I keep lists of the charities my family members support.

I do not give to charity in the name of people who choose charities I am morally opposed to. They get random crap gifts that they then need to declutter instead.


We try to give about 10% of our gross income a year (we are not religious so we don't 'tithe'), through our DAF.  My company matches donations up to $5,000 for 5 curated charities, so I usually start there. Thankfully, my values align very well to my work's, so they are charities I'd be happy to support anyway.
I also sponsor a month of matched giving for a local pregnancy and infant loss charity in honor of my son's delivery day. It is money I'd give anyway, so this way the "match" encourages others to give as well. I like to do things that help my dollars go further.

Laura33

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Re: Charity and guilt about your $$$ / How much to donate?
« Reply #29 on: April 25, 2019, 09:01:13 AM »
I was going to say what Goldilocks and SunnyMoney said.

Guilt is toxic.  Sometime it is a signal that you are not living in alignment with your values, in which case the only possible solution is to figure out how to fix that.  But in your case, I am guessing it comes from illogical, damaging stories you tell yourself that are based on a weird combination of insecurity and hubris:  first, that I am not worthy of earning this much, and so I should therefore re-distribute it to others who deserve it more (insecurity); and second, that I need to Save The World, and that anything I do less than that is insufficient (hubris).  When that is what is driving you, deciding to give because the puppy is cute is really just a temporary salve to your underlying mental pain -- it's like a temporary hit of valium, where you can relax and escape the inner turmoil for a little bit.  But inevitably, the cycle starts back up again until you need to get another hit to feel better.

You need to donate from a position of strength and confidence.  And that starts with getting rid of the guilt.  Take time to figure out where the guilt is coming from, and then figure out how to combat it.  If it's insecurity, focus on all the work and effort and sacrifice you have put in to get where you are.  Look at all the people who have more and act like they're entitled to it, and be grateful that that is never going to be you.  Remind yourself that no individual can fix everything, and that your obligation is only to do what you can.  Or whatever else it takes.

Then develop a big-picture plan that addresses both your financial and emotional needs.  E.g., you have competing emotional needs to both ensure your own financial security and to help others.  Both of those needs are inherently good, but they are in conflict, so think hard and decide how much you want to give to each one.  And note that you have different types of currency, too -- it's not just about money, but also your time and possible experience in a given area. 

Once you decide how much, figure out who.  Focus on the causes that you connect with most closely.  Every single person on Earth will have different views about what issue is most important.  The only thing that matters is what causes are yours.  If you are concerned about maximum impact or a charity's cost/effectiveness, do your research and decide.  And don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good; decide what is good enough, and call it done.  You can always change your mind later.

Finally, figure out how.  Personally, I like doing fixed contributions, because that makes it easier for me to ignore the ever-present appeals ("sorry, I've already hit my charity budget").  I too am a sucker for puppy-dog eyes, and so I need that emotional distance to keep the guilt in check.  But maybe you really like the personal touch of knowing that you can save one particular puppy -- so for you, it might work better to give yourself $X in cash each month that you can spread out however you like, and once it's gone, you're done.  Or do some fixed contributions to the well-researched charities, and keep a little on the side to spread around as the mood takes you.  Etc.

And then live with it.  Stick to your plan 100% for the first couple of months -- it is going to feel very, very weird to step away from the guilt, and you are going to be tempted to "just" throw in another few dollars, or help one more puppy, etc.  Don't.  That is the only way to break that emotional feedback loop -- like any addiction, it's going to be very, very, very uncomfortable at first, but you just have to see it through.

And then, after maybe 6 months, sit down with yourself and see how it's working.  What suits you?  What doesn't seem to fit?  What things did you not consider when you were doing your initial plan?  Adjust accordingly.  Rinse, repeat.  And know that you are already a good person just because you do care, and you do help; you don't have to do any arbitrary thing someone else wants you to just because they want it.  You have the right to decide what suits your own values.