Thoughtful Thursday: Charity

January 15, 2010

(Sorry, Intelligentsia thing mentioned in the last post is not ready yet.)

Thoughtful ThursdayThis week’s earthquake in Haiti, like many natural and man-made disasters in the past, has stirred many people to want to help. In the corner of my TV screen and various webpages are calls to donate money to various relief organizations.

Personally, I don’t tend to be reactive with charity. Yes, I was in line with 1000 other people on September 12, 2001 to donate blood, but I was also in line, often the only one, every couple of months for years before that with regular blood donations. I have several regular charities to which I donate money and tend to stick to those, no matter how many calls I get from the Police Action League or depressing commercials I see.

I typically donate to several (but not all) of the schools I attended as well as one particular animal rescue organization. Schools’ alumni giving rate is a factor in rankings as well as eligibility for grants; in addition, I feel a genuine connection and loyalty to the schools to which I donate — and not so much to the schools I attended to which I don’t donate.

We chose to make the animal rescue organization our primary charity for several reasons. My husband especially is an animal lover like you wouldn’t believe. This particular rescue has policies and practices that we heartily endorse. We’ve been there in person and seen the good work that they do, and we’ve had our faces licked by a few of the residents. I know that most of the money is going to the intended purpose rather than overhead or marketing; it is all too common for charities to spend a large chunk of their donations on getting more donations (hint: if you’re seeing commercials on TV or getting tote bags in the mail, your dollars are not going where you intended). I specifically like animal rescue as a cause because it feels like the money is really going somewhere: it will feed a specific animal for a certain amount of time, or it will spay one particular stray, or it will pay for one particular treatment. I don’t know if we can ever cure cancer or end homelessness, but an end to killing healthy animals due to human irresponsibility is actually an achievable goal in the near future.

I also donated money and pottery last year to Share Southern Vermont. First of all, Cara is my bloggy friend, and her passion for the cause is contagious. Second, I know where the money is going. Finally and probably most important, each dollar makes much more of an impact than it would at a huge national or international charity. As with the animal charity, I know that specific families dealing with loss will be helped by my donation. As the Second Wave feminists taught us, the personal is the political.

Where do your charity dollars go? Why do you choose the charities that you do? If I handed you $100 to donate, where would you want it to go?

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20 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Charity”

  1. loribeth Says:

    Interesting (& timely!) question. Our main/favourite charity is our pregnancy loss support group. (Lord knows they need the money badly.) Every year around the time of Katie’s stillbirth, I send them a year’s worth of post-dated cheques, one for each month, & we also make ad-hoc donations from time to time. We both also donate to our local United Way through our workplace payroll deduction program. And there’s one-off donations to organizations like local hospitals & the cancer society, sponsoring friends & relatives in charity runs, etc. We also usually make donations in lieu of flowers for funerals, etc.

    We used to get a LOT of phone calls from charities, & we’d sometimes donate — sometimes because we believed in them, sometimes just to get rid of them. Then we got call display. ; ) The number of donations we make has dropped significantly but we’ve also been able to donate more to the causes we really care about as a result.

    I used to donate to MADD Canada a lot, because drinking & driving is an issue that has touched my life — but I got hugely annoyed with them, because they’d call me for a donation & I’d send them $50. Then I’d get another call & send them another $50, & when I got the receipt & went to file it, I’d realize the last donation was just two months ago. I was also getting pressured (by them & other charities) to give them a credit card number then & there over the phone. I understand that it cuts their costs if they don’t have to mail you something, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with handing out my cc# to someone who called me out of the blue.

  2. loribeth Says:

    Oh, and re: “reactive” donations to events such as Haiti — I do make those as well. The company I work for has four locations & about 80 employees in Haiti. Last we heard, the damage was relatively minimal & the employees are all accounted for, but we have no idea about their families & homes (if they even have homes anymore). We’ve opened an account where employees can make donations that will directly benefit our employees there. No tax receipts can be issued, but that’s fine with me. I will be making a donation to that account later today.

    I also used to donate to the two universities I attended, but again, was being pressured into signing up for regular deductions from my bank account or credit card, & I wasn’t comfortable with that. I also got flack from my dh — he feels that the one university I attended is a “fat cat” university that doesn’t need our hard-earned money. :p

  3. a Says:

    I’m not a reactive donater either – especially after the quagmire that was Hurricane Katrina donations. We give fairly regularly to Disabled American Veterans and to St. Jude. I will occasionally donate to the Humane Society. We take all of our gently used and no longer needed items to Goodwill. I used to send money to my high school…until I toured the $4 million addition and decided they didn’t need my $50/year.

    However, if someone else is giving me money to donate (i.e. it’s not my hard-earned money), I would give it to the Red Cross. Although their administration of funds is sometimes questionable and their large scale relief efforts can be cluster-f***s, their small scale efforts are very helpful.

  4. Kristin Says:

    I am all for local charities. I donate directly to the Boy Scouts. I use to donate blood regularly (need to get back to that) and platelets through the Red Cross. St. Jude and the Ronald McDonald house are also ones I have supported.

  5. BB Says:

    We contribute to Make A Wish, a local homeless shelter, cancer research and local wild life conservation every year. My husband donates blood regularly… I need to start doing that. We normally end up donating to other causes once in a while if they sound genuine. If some one we know is raising funds for any cause… we end up donating there too.

    For us giving back is very important… I am all about promoting awareness – and if I can be vocal about a particular issue I am more than happy to be a part of it.

  6. Poppy Says:

    I have donated regularly to the Special Olympics since I was old enough to make decisions about where my money went. My brother has Downs Syndrome, he celebrated his 49th birthday on the 11th! When he was younger he participated in the S.O’s. and I will always remember the joy that gave him. My children have also adopted the S.O’s as a place they routinely donate to. My daughter is participating in the Polar Plunge on Feb. 13th this yr. in Athens, OH. This will be her 3rd year. Jumping into the ice cold Hocking River for charity…yikes! But I’m proud of her.

    We have supported at various times over the years the American Cancer Society, the Heart Association and the Red Cross.

  7. Elana Kahn Says:

    I donate to the Jewish schools in my neighborhood and to other national Jewish organizations (Hadassah, Yad L’Achim, Oorah, etc.) We choose these organizations for two reasons. Number 1 is that in Jewish law you are obligated to give 10% of your income (after tax) to Jewish charities. Secondly, we feel that national charities (like the American Heart Association, Cancer Association, etc.) get donations from everyone whereas Jewish organizations rely almost solely on Jewish donations. If I had $100 to donate, it would go to one of the Jewish schools in my area.

  8. Ana Says:

    Timely topic, I was just thinking about this very issue.

    I will admit I am sometimes spurred to make reactive donations (we did donate to the red cross yesterday, and did the same for other worldwide & national relief efforts in the past few years); more than anything, it probably helps ME sleep better at night (ha! with a 2 week old???) feeling like I’ve “done” something.

    However, we regularly donate only to local organizations with specific agendas, such as foodbanks, homeless shelters, animal rescues, etc… I feel like things like cancer & certain other medical research get SO MUCH national attention(and millions in grant money), we should target our modest amounts to organizations for which $100 or $200 will really make an appreciable difference. I haven’t donated to any of the schools I’ve attended. I thought I would donate to my graduate school (my undergrad school is chock full of the “privileged”) but I just haven’t been moved to do so, despite all the letters & emails I’ve received.

    I struggle with situations where I am personally asked by someone to support them (in a run, walk, etc…) for causes that I would not normally donate to. I usually end up giving a small amount and view it as support for the friend.


  9. When I can, I donate to my local Children’s Hospital- since I have special ties there.

    I will say that I AM reactive but only in certain regards. I don’t just throw money at charities during every crises. But, in the case of Haiti, something deep in me compelled me to make a donation. There have been other disasters, but this is close to home in some ways. I live in a place where a devastating earthquake is very possible. If something like that were to happen here, I know people would help us out.

    I made my donation to Doctors Without Borders, because 1) of the wonderful work they do, 2) they already work in Haiti and 3) because medical assistance is one of the things they deperately need.

    If you gave me $100 today to donate, I’d give half to the before-mentioned Children’s Hospital and the other half to Haiti. I am a firm believer that Charity begins at home but also that we have a responsibility to the global community to help when we live in such richness.

  10. Eva Says:

    We selected three big organizations a couple of years ago: SOS childrens villages, Doctors without Borders, and Amnesty International with a monthly contribution. The reason for the SOS children villages I guess can be found in my worst fear – not being able to care for my children and imagining them (or other children) abandoned and left to themselves. Similar reasoning went to the other two organizations. I hope that the monthly/quarterly setup gives them some planning security and lowers marketing cost. Also since they are fairly big in size I hope they are running a reasonably efficient system with their marketing and administration.

    Sometimes I also donate to smaller local organizations (like the public library etc), but not on a regular basis.

    Certain causes like e.g. cancer and other medical research that I think should be taken care of by government spending (being European) are not on my donation list. The same is true for on the spot collection, I very much dislike being asked when grocery shopping if I would like at the side to give 50 cent to some not very well described cause like “breast cancer research” – where is this money ending up ?


  11. We give to our schools and to the organization that helped us to become parents.

    I once did an abundance exercise that took 30 days. You start Day 1 with $10. You double the amount each day. You must spend all of each day’s funds.

    By Day 30, you are scrambling to spend bookoo bucks and it helps clarify where your values are. Like this Thoughtful Thursday does.

    It also helps you feel what Flow feels like. The easy come, easy go sensation.

  12. WiseGuy Says:

    Very recently(Dec 2009), Me and hubby have sponsored a small girl in SOS Children’s Village. It is a cash sponsorship.

    I do not tend to donate money to charities as such, but I prefer to buy CRY greeting cards. For every card bought, a part of the money earned goes to Child Relief and You.

    I am not very strong on charity donation, because I tend to be skeptical about where my money would actually go. But I had the pleasure of visiting a SOS Children’s Village and meeting a ‘mother’, and I was very touched with their whole set-up. Because I know who is getting the direct benefit of my money, I felt okay about giving the money.

    I like CRY’s model of raising donations. Rather than just asking for money, it gives the person a chance to acquire a product, and do good in return. It has a feel-good aspect attached to it.

    I have been drawn to children related charities, and it is more of a coincidence rather than a design.

    I have donated blood myself, to a local blood bank, but the reasons were not charity.

    If you handed me $100, I guess I will be giving it away to SOS Children’s Village.

  13. Cathi Says:

    Even though I’m not particularly religious, most of our donated money goes to our church. It was a very important part of my life as a teenager in the youth group and the feeling of community is like nowhere else I’ve found. We’ve also gotten a lot of support in the form of meals and help feeding the triplets since they were born.

    All of my volunteer work was through the church (BC- before children): teaching Sunday School, youth group advisor, committee member & chair, Session member. As the chair of the Mission & Outreach Committee I got to know about a lot of charitable donations and help decide where a lot of our church’s donations would go. It was really interesting! Some of those groups just blew me away. The committee also organized and sponsored 1-2 adult mission trips/year and I helped plan those and usually went on them. I get a lot more satisfaction from spending a week pounding nails with my big hammer than from writing a check.

    We also give to United Way through payroll deductions and DH gives blood year round. We’ll almost always give to friends or relatives participating in fundraisers, like walks or runs, too. And I’ve donated cakes and cookie baskets to silent auctions. Oh, and I LOVE Heifer International! If you gave me $100 I’d most likely send it to them (for a share of a water buffalo – just because I think it sounds funny).

  14. strongblonde Says:

    hahaha. i didn’t mention that B trashed the onsie that baby boy had on. he said that there would be no way to salvage it. lol!!! glad to hear we aren’t the only ones!

  15. coffeegrl Says:

    I used to donate to a local organization with which I volunteered as a mentor for at-risk youth. The program for high school students was more community-based than the Big Brothers/Big Sisters and focused more on training for adult mentors and those two factors really made a difference to me. Additionally, the staff, though small, was dynamic and the results were jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring and always tear-inducing. I felt incredibly passionate about the organization and asked that donations be made to this org. in lieu of wedding gifts when husband and I got married several years ago. Just last year, the org. suddenly folded as the result of poor board management and I was absolutely devastated when I heard some of what had happened in the year since I had stopped volunteering. I am still crushed and trying to decide what to do now. I’m essentially shopping around for a new local organization for which I might feel the same degree of passion. Helping under-served and at-risk teenagers is a passion of mine as I think we as a society are far too quick to judge teens based on how they appear (in terms of physical dress, attitude etc.) and they just don’t get a fair shake. But what are they other than small, frightened children trying to make their way to adulthood often in terrible poverty and horrible family circumstances? They just have the misfortune to have outgrown the stage where they’re cute despite the fact that an adorable 4 or 5 year old spirit may be cowering somewhere inside.

  16. Rebecca Says:

    I give to the Terrance Higgins Trust. I am passionate about Aids charities.

    If you gave me $100, i’d give half of it to Meningitis Research and half to MIND (the mental health charity). I lost a baby cousin to meningitis and lost my dad to suicide.

  17. Photogrl Says:

    I tend to give to charities close to my heart…the NOCC in my mother’s memory (ovarian cancer research) and Make A Wish.

    If I had $100, that’s where it would go, I don’t want to see anyone else lose a mother, sister, aunt, friend to that awful, often missed until it’s too late disease.

  18. jill Says:

    Charities are a weird thing for me. I’m so wary of people not telling the truth. I find it very difficult to believe that the money goes where places say it goes. I prefer to do things that actually donate ITEMS to places that need them – like toys to children at the holidays or food and supplies to animal shelters.


  19. First of all, sorry for the late response. I have some catching up to do with the TTs after a week of absence without my own computer and am still thinking about a good response to the 1/7 TT…

    When we lived in the States I donated monthly to Sierra Club, Oxfam, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Human Rights organizations are always high on my list, as is the environment. I hardly donate to emergencies, I don’t quite know why exactly… Now in France I don’t donate to anything regularly, mainly because I don’t have a job (and in the US it was really my money going to those organizations).

    If you would hand me $100 I would probably give it to Oxfam as I’m sure they also do relief work in Haiti.

  20. Mel Says:

    I large portion of the donations we make as a family (as opposed to how I chose to spend ad revenue from the blog) go to Jewish organizations. The list seems to be random and changes from year to year.


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