Karen‘s question for the current Weekend Assignment is a rather timely one, in light of the recent tragedy in Haiti and the celebrity telethon this Friday night:
Weekend Assignment #302: What charities do you donate to regularly, if any? Why or why not?
Extra Credit: Do you remember what you most recent donation was for?
I’m probably not as charitable as I should be, or could be, these days – it’s fluctuated over the years. But since I’ve spent nearly my entire working life in the financial management of nonprofit organizations, more than half with companies that qualified as charities (organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, if you care), I have a pretty good grasp of how heavily donation revenue affects these organizations’ ability to do the work they do.
If you’ve actually visited my blog itself lately (not just reading it through your feed reader or Facebook), you may have spotted the “Support the Haiti Disaster Relief Effort” widget in my sidebar. It links directly to the Red Cross’ website for online donations to their International Response Fund. Blogger made this widget available to its users last week, and I installed it right away. The Red Cross has always been the place where I make donations to help recovery efforts after disasters. They may not be perfect at the corporate level, but I appreciate the fact that they always have trained people ready to respond quickly to natural and man-made disasters, and I’m happy to support their efforts. I will be sending $41 to them this week – that’s the amount generated by the $1-per-comment-received pledge I made here last weekend, and I really want to thank everyone who pitched in for that! My family will be making a donation of our own to the Red Cross as well.
When I belonged to a church, I made regular weekly offerings, but since I don’t have that outlet any more, my donations tend to be more erratic and on an as-needed or on-request basis. I also don’t participate in the annual United Way campaign at work, since I’d rather give my money directly to the organizations and causes I want to help, but that’s just a personal preference. (My employer does receive some support via United Way, but if I want to “give at the office,” I’ll actually give to the office.)
Some of the causes I support aren’t necessarily the first things that come to mind as “charities.” For example, I’m a sustaining “Star Member” of KCRW, one of the LA area’s NPR stations, which means they automatically get $10 from me every month. I was a member of the Memphis Zoological Society for several years after I no longer worked for them (or even lived in Memphis), and I feel guilty about letting it lapse. My support for them comes from personal knowledge of what they do, and I really should get around to joining again (especially since several of their member benefits are reciprocated by other zoos). When friends have participated in fundraising activities for certain charities, such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life or the Komen Foundation’s 3-Day Walk and Race for the Cure for breast cancer, I’ll usually donate on their behalf if asked. Then I’ll turn around and ask them to donate for me when I do the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk, which I do every fall, along with the rest of my family (and to which I make my own donation as well), in honor of my mother.
My husband and I may not be exactly where we’d like to be financially, but we’re well aware that we’re better off than a lot of people in so many ways, so if our money will help an organization or cause we believe in, we’ll do our best to support them if we can. The decision to give to one charity or another can be very personal, so if you don’t want to mention your favorites specifically, I totally understand, but I’d love to know your thoughts on charitable giving in general.