Weekend/Wednesday Assignment #302: It’s for Charity!

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.

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  1. I hate that I can't give right now. When you live pay check to pay check, it is very hard to.

    I usually try to give to several charities every year, usually during the charities main fund raising season. Mostly, it is based on who needs it (like Haiti, food banks ect). There are two I always donate to – Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDs and the American Cancer Society (usually through Relay For Life).

    This year, I will have to cut back on donations though…which makes me feel horrible, but until a job, that is how it will have to be. I am trying to find ways to donate time instead of money.

  2. Great topic for discussion and very timely.

    I agree with your support of Red Cross – a good friend of mine works there and she has educated me on all the different ways they provide relief in disasters and support to families.

    I, too, also donate to charities for which friends do events like walks, marathons etc. Having done two marathons for Team in Traning (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) I always like to support those trying to raise money in the same way.

    Other than that, I generally contribute to health/reaserch related charities.

    Thanks again for posting the topic!

  3. My 9-yr-old gave $1 yesterday to Haiti relief. I haven't yet made my own donation, but I have to do my budgeting and see where I am. I plan to give during the tel-a-thon on Fri.
    Right now, I tend to give more in other ways. I consider my hours with the PTA charitable contributions, and the girls and I visit freerice.com every so often to give money through their games. I think my last monetary donation was at Mary Poppins when they passed the hat for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.

  4. My donations to the Red Cross involve blood, never really thought about giving money.

    We do donate monthly through our church and recently did a donation directly for Haiti as the others are more general humanitarian aid.

    on a more personal note….sometimes I like to dream that I'll get a knock on the door and an oversized check. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. The reason I bring this up is because I always plan to budget humanitarian aid in my winnings. It's been a while since I've walked that dream but Habitat for Humanity springs to mind along with battered women, animals, homeless and too many medical charities to list. Looks like I'll be adding the Red Cross next time.

  5. Caitieflum – Giving time is at least as valuable as giving money, and sometimes more so. I tend to give money more because I really DON'T give time, except for the Memory Walk.

    Booksnyc – My mother-in-law was a local volunteer coordinator for the Red Cross for several years. I'd support them anyway, but it's nice to know there's a family connection as well.

    April – If I don't get to it sooner, my donation will probably happen during the telethon too.

    I really should make it a point to go to freerice.com more often – thanks for the reminder!

    Gina (Book Dragon) – I can't donate blood, unfortunately. My brother-in-law does it regularly, though.

    And yes, I know exactly what you mean about using some of that mythical big check to help worthy causes – I would do the same.

  6. What a comprehensive entry – it should really get people thinking. I forgot to show up at the Red Cross yesterday to give blood, as busy as I was doing the church's books. I'll have to do a walk-in on Saturday or something.

    Thanks for all you do!

  7. We are kind of erratic with our donations as well. Some races we do raise money for charities and we give a lot of clothes and toys away each year. But, cash that we give out is all over the place, and probably not enough.

  8. Mike – Oh, I forgot about the clothing donations and that kind of thing. We probably should be making a trip to Goodwill soon, come to think of it. Thanks for the reminder!