Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Charity 2011

For the past two years, I have shared our family's giving in a year end post. This year, while I made the year end deadline for giving, I did not make it for blogging.

As in past years, we have tried to spread our giving somewhat equally between 5 categories, and various members of the family have proposed organizations they would like to fund. We have also continued to use Peter Singer's pledge to set a target for our giving as a percentage of our income.

New from past years, we set up a family fund with the our local Community Foundation. We intend to do our giving from this fund each year, which will also allow us to make our contributions on a more regular basis. We also decided to institute a minimum gift, so we would stay more concentrated in our giving. And as with past year's, we increased our total giving.

The last big change is that this was the first year that I had worked (part time) as a "professional" philanthropist (in that someone paid me to help them with their philanthropy).  I don't think this changed what we did a great deal, but it did result in some pruning and in reinforcing a few of our decisions from prior years.

I continue to work on the idea that charity is putting your money where your hopes are. Checking results and following up are important. I am also aware that too often, charity is more about making the giver feel good, than achieving real benefit for those in need. There is nothing wrong with the former, as long as the latter is accomplished. I have to say that we feel very good about the accomplishments of some of the groups we have been supporting for several years.

We also dropped a few for various reasons. Until the situation becomes clearer, Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute is not receiving more money from us. For others, it was a matter of prioritizing, as we were giving larger amounts to fewer organizations. So, for example, we chose to support Akili Dada over Pratham in education, not because Pratham isn't doing great work, but because they are much larger, and we felt our money would have a bigger impact with Akili. This is not entirely rational, I understand, but it is a family decision (need I say more?)

I hope this is useful to others as they decide how they would like to help others. I believe their is a need for philanthropy, and hope that this remains an area where individual giving, by people of ordinary means, continues to be important. There is a lot of talk about how the big foundations are changing the face of philanthropy... but the local homeless shelter, youth group, food bank or radio station? They all still rely on donations from people like you. They can all do more if you chip in. And it isn't just money, many of these organizations could benefit from your time and expertise.

I think it is would be hard to overestimate how important charity is in building strong communities. Imagine what yours would be without it.

OK, enough about approach and philosophy. Here are the organizations we supported in 2011:

Environment: Nature Conservancy; IdeaWild*; Trust for Public Land*; Property & Environment Research Center

Health: Doctors Without Borders; VisionSpring

International Development: One Acre Fund; IDE; Nepal Youth Foundation

Education: National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship; Akili Dada; Engineers Without Borders*

Local: Colorado Combined Campaign; KUNC; Food Family Farm*; Growing Gardens*; SAME Cafe; Matthews House*; Larimer County Food Bank.
* denotes organizations we began supporting in 2011.

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