A Year of Giving Randomly

19 08 2011

In the past our charitable giving was usually driven by which non-profit animal shelter I was currently working for – go figure.  I gave monthly through automatic withdrawal programs.  It was all very organized and could be planned for in our budget. (Ha, ha, ha – yeah, our budget, that thing we write down on paper every couple years and usually promptly forget.)

In addition to those monthly gifts to animal organizations which I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt were doing good work, we sometimes gave to those young, optimistic, do-gooders going door-to-door, pitching an organization and trying to change the world.  Specific causes ranged from the  environment to equal rights. In general, however, I turned down way more requests for donations than I honored.

So many not-for-profits are run poorly.  So many split-hairs when they give you their statistics.  I don’t think they usually lie, but they have professional staff who spend 100% of their time making sure you want to give to them and 0% of their time ensuring the donations actually provide a service to someone, somewhere.

On the other hand, I am no longer intimately involved with any particular not-for-profit.  Not  spending 60 hours a week working for a specific not-for-profit agency allows me to be more balanced.  My circle of friends grew and my personal interests blossomed.  Now that I am less myopic, I want our giving to reflect our lives. But I still have two toddlers.  I do not have the time to research the many amazing groups that are doing amazing work.  More importantly, I don’t have the knowledge to recognize the charities that under perform. Keeping that in mind, I had decided to use the judgement of my friends as the single biggest factor in choosing what causes I will support.  If a friend asks me to give that would be reason enough to make a gift.

But before my plan got underway, it was tested.  Right now many of my friends are part of an amazing effort to raise money for the famine effected areas in Africa.  Unfortunately, they are raising money for an organization I distrust.    My theory of how I was going to implement my “randomness” has been challenged.  After thinking it through some more, I decided to stick with my original idea.  In almost all cases my gifts will be small.  My experiment is about being one of many, allowing social media to influence my giving along with traditional fundraising activities.  Despite the imperfections of my plan,  my 44th year of life will also be my Year Of Giving Randomly.

Like Danny Wallace in his memoir “Yes Man”, I am going to just say yes.  I hope to make a charitable gift every time I am asked by a “friend.”  I will not give to any cause that directly conflicts with my values.  And, in fact, if I am asked to give to a cause that I find immoral, I will probably make a small gift to a charity that is working on the other side of that specific issue.  Other than that caveat, I plan to give (even if I am slightly unsure about the charity, as long as I believe in the cause.)

And I plan to buy.  I will be buying t-shirts and headbands and any other schlock that your favorite charity is selling which I can convince myself we need.  Additionally, I hope to purchase any and all gifts I give this year in a similar manner. (I hope my family likes t-shirts with pictures of Africa on them.)

And I plan to run (really, really slowly).  I am going to try to enter at least one running event every month starting in September.  If I can work the timing out, many of those runs should be supporting a charity.

I hope by saying yes, even if my gift is small, it will give the asker confidence to approach another potential donor (maybe even one who has some real wealth to share).

I hope that my small gifts will inspire me to learn more about a particular organization, a particular problem, a particular solution.

Look out Girl Scouts, High School Band Members and Salvation Army Bell Ringers, I am headed your way.  I will be easy to spot wearing a charity t-shirt, a different not-for-profit baseball cap, carrying an umbrella supporting one cause and a book-bag supporting another.




9 responses

19 08 2011

This is a great idea. I loved Yes man. It was inspiring. So is this.

and if you end up finding a really great charity for maternal health in the developing world? I really want to know about it.

19 08 2011
Captain Murdock

I’m so glad you posted this. You see …

My husband and I are traveling Europe. Our bags were lost, and we were just mugged at knife-point. They stole all our money and passports. We are stuck and must have $750 wired to us before tomorrow to leave the country. Please help. I have no idea how we’ll survive. Thank you for your kindness and generosity in this manner 😉

19 08 2011

I love it. What a great idea for a year! Good luck, keep us posted on what you’re hearing/giving to!!! I LOVE t-shirts with Africas on them. 😉

Also, Claudia, one of my good friends is a President of a start up. http://www.theadventureproject.org. This quarter they are raising money for maternal health. Go check them out. And semiferalmama, that’d be a good one for you to look up too. 😉 heeehee

19 08 2011

Good for you SF. Although the running part has got to go.

19 08 2011

Now I am curious about the name of the organization you distrust, and why you distrust it…but also really inspired by this, I love the idea of giving randomly just because people ask!

19 08 2011

Ditto what Liz said about the organization you distrust, because I’m currently researching organizations to donate to for famine relief.

I like your thought process on donations. I have generally had this same philosophy. If it is an organization that is near and dear to a friend and family member, then I donate in the hope that 1) my small donation along with everyone else’s small donation will make a difference, and 2) said friend or family member has already done their research. It really makes the decision to donate much easier!

I hope you will keep us all informed if you find some truly amazing and worthy groups that are in need of donations.

19 08 2011
il panettiere...

Super curious now. Could it be the one I have recommended?

And Captain Murdock just about had me laughing out loud….

19 08 2011
Semi-Feral Mama

I don’t want to dis this particular charity publicly. (Having run a not-for-profit, I can tell you how frustrating that gets.) I just saw lots of signs for this charity while in Ethiopia. I asked a traveling companion who has many years of experience working in developing nations what she thought about that charity and she was very clear that she would NOT support them. We didn’t get into details as I just simply crossed them off my list.
I don’t want to imply that they are unethical or anything else serious, I am just saying that they are not where I want to put my money. That being said, I do plan to give something to them because so many of my friends have asked on their behalf in the last week. (Does it sound like I have big money that I am holding back? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha….)
I am currently a fan of FOVC. They are working in Wolaita and have drought victims showing up at their gates. Many of the Ethiopian children I know were born in Wolaita. For more info go to http://www.fovc.org/
I was happy to read Julie’s post at Eyes Of My Eyes today and will be looking at her suggestions and what her readers follow up with in the comment section.
Of course I may be out of money after I support Captain Murdock on her romp through Europe.

20 08 2011

Captain Murdock, you’re a laugh riot!

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