Monday, April 14, 2008

Give Till It Hurts?

Or Just Till It Starts to Go Numb?

So, you've researched your charity and have picked a winner. Now you're ready to donate your hard earned cash or even harder-to-come-by time. How much do you give? Well there is a very simple answer to this question:

It depends.

It depends on what you can afford. It depends on how strongly you believe in the cause. It might even depend on your religious views. It all just depends on so many factors that I can't give you a dollar amount or percentage. But I can tell you what others give.

What The Joneses Give

The average American gives 3.1% of their pre-tax income to charity. So let's say you make $100,000. Presumably, if you're average, you're donating $3,100 per year to charity. But remember, these are averages, greatly skewed by the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Right?

Well, kind of. But here's an interesting fact: The individuals who, as a whole, donate the largest percentage of their income? Know who they are? Those who make less than $10,000 per year. Those folks donate about 5.2% of their income. Feeling guilty yet? No?

Well let's bring religion into it then. After all, that always helped increase the guilt factor for my Catholic grandmother. Most churches believe you should give 10% of your money to charity. Of course, they have a vested interest in telling you that, but I leave that topic to someone else (yeah, even Burbanmom has some areas where she doesn't tread!). So if we're still talking an annual income of $100,000, that would be $10,000 of philanthropy.

So, after hearing those numbers... how are you feeling about yourself and your giving? Good? Below average? Right on target? Or still clueless?

Gimme Five!

So, let's say you want to raise the bar above the 3.1% average and "Go for Five" - a 5% annual contribution. But, your spouse is gonna freak out when you ask if it's ok to fork over five grand to save the polar bears. How can you accomplish your giving goal of 5%?

Simple. Do a combination of dollars, donated items and volunteer time to get there. Again, for ease of calculations, let's say your family makes $100,000 per year. There are a number of ways you can get to the $5,000 mark without hurting too much.

Declutter and Give Your Stuff to Charity - $1,000

You'd be surprised how quickly your junk adds up. Imagine if you took all your unwanted stuff and had a garage sale. Except, instead of haggling on pricing and not selling half your crap, you actually sold it all for top dollar. That's basically how donating works. They take almost all of it at Goodwill and if you diligently record all the items you donate, you'll see just how quickly those unwanted items add up!

Donate Your Time - $2,000

According to Independent Sector, the estimated dollar value of your volunteer time is roughly $19.51 per hour. Not bad. Hell of a lot more than I make in my thankless job as stay-at-home-and-clean-up-puke-mom. Oh, sorry... rough week here. But imagine if you just gave two hours per week to your favorite charity. At the hourly rate of $19.51, you'd be donating the equivalent of $2,029.04 in a year.

Cold Hard Cash - $2,000

That's $166 per month. Which might sound a bit scary if you're not used to giving. But try this instead: Donate $25 per week to your favorite charity. This can easily be accomplished through setting up a recurring transaction in your online banking account. Or you might even ask your employer if a payroll deduction could be made. Once you've got your auto-giving set up, you'll be kicking in $1,300 per year with really no effort.

Then, to supplement your weekly donations, change the way you gift-give to adults. Anytime you have a gifting occasion (wedding; baby shower; birthday; anniversary; Christmas; Mother's Day; Father's Day; etc.) instead of giving a "thing", make a $50 donation in the recipient's name to their favorite charity. Assuming you have 16 adult gift-giving occasions per year, you're all set. Bonus? No wrapping required.

Another Heading... Because I Seem To Be Doing That Today

So as you can see, determining how much to give can be as tricky as figuring out where to donate. But with most things in life, you do the best you can. Right now, just try to give more in 2008 than you did in 2007. Maybe you could donate an extra $100 this year. Or take those old toys to the children's hospital, even though it's a little out of your way. Or perhaps this will be the year you finally try your hand at volunteering.

So try to be a giver this year and help a worthy cause. I promise it won't take up all your time or money. And what you get in return is absolutely priceless.

This post is another one in my series on giving. If you haven't yet signed up for The Giving Challenge, it's not too late! The Challenge will be going on for the whole month.


Joyce said...

Your idea of incrementally increasing your monetary giving is one that really works. Say you want to give 10%, but have only been giving 2%. Just go up a percent each year. Most people find this very doable, because, as we're all finding through these no-spending and decluttering challenges, we really don't need as much as we think we do.

Green Bean said...

Thank you for the reminder that we should all be doing our party just a little bit more.

One reminder, though, when you donate cash to a charity, remind them to not add you to their mailing list or share your information with any other oganizations or you'll end up with a mailbox full of junk.

Sarah said...

You can use to set up monthly recurring donations (using Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover) to any of over 1 million charities.

Leslie said...

I "volunteer" to become everyone's favorite charity.
Please send your donations to me. It doesn't even have to be 5%. I'll be happy with 2% Net.

Seriously, the old adage "charity begins at home" is a good one. Look to your immediate neighborhood. Organize a litter pick-up campaign, or get some neighbors to help the little old man or lady that can't de-clutter their garage themselves.

Again, send your doantions to Leslie. That address is...

arduous said...

I think this is my favorite challenge ever!!

CindyW said...

I cleaned out our closet this weekend and found a large ziplog bag of coins, thanks to my husband's habit of never using coins. What's with the men collecting coins? All men should carry purses like women. Imagine the coins that are stashed away in millions of closets. I digress.

Anyway, the bag amounted to $150! I could hardly believe it. Yay, money for a new skirt. Just kidding. I am giving it to my neighbor who is doing "Race for the Cure" (by Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)

Anonymous said...

Heh...on churches, most of the time, not only do they believe you should give 10%, they believe you should give all 10% to them. And if the average church is anything like the one I grew up in, the offering plate isn't used to fund actual charitable efforts at all. It keeps the lights on, pays the pastor for his spiritual guidance, and sends the youth group on a float trip. It's basically a low-fee social club - the ones who benefit are the ones who paid into it.

Sorry, I'm not bitter at all...not at all annoyed that my church can't even be bothered to keep a food pantry anymore...when said pantry was just a box kept in the church office, filled with cans brought in at random by members of the congregation.

Okay, so how does all this rant relate to Erin's post? Just...don't feel guilted by the 10% figure. That's all.


BCC, wading in fearlessly where others politely stay away.

Anonymous said...

BCC, I am soooo with you. I grew up in the Mormon Church, where you not only were expected to give 10% of your GROSS to the church, but you had an annual reconciliation with the bishop (called Tithing Settlement) in order to pretty much look him in the eye and swear that you had in fact given your full 10%.

I'm not bitter either.

I hope I'm not making Mormon enemies here. Oh, wait. That's an oxymoron. Mormons are the nicest people. Really. And my family still loves me even though I'm gonna rot in you know where.

(Sorry, I'm catching another cold. Need... whiskey... now...)

Oh, and wait. I forgot the reason I clicked the Comment Link in the first place. Can you link to the organizations that I give to automatically on a monthly basis? I don't care if people know how much. I would just like the organizations mentioned on the list:

Green Sangha (

Organic Consumers Association

Oh my god. I started this comment hours ago and never got back to it. And now it's 3am and I can't think. Will finish tomorrow.

I'm a dork, oh yes I am.

Joyce said...

My church has a food pantry and delivers to needy families twice a week. We also built and support a children's home in Honduras. We also have a team that goes out two Saturdays a month to rehab houses for needy people in our community. You need to find a church that cares. We're out there.