Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Scene In Which We Give To Haiti....And Everywhere Else Too.

In the wake of the Haiti earthquake, a friend of mine posted an interesting question about why people give to emergency needs, but fail to give locally.

Simply put? It may just be easier.

Even though our generation is only in its 20s and 30s now, it is never too early (or too late!) to start giving to charitable organizations. However, many people often feel overwhelmed with multiple requests for funds- these days, it seems like EVERYONE needs money. And when we face emergency situations, such as the situation in Haiti, people give because the opportunities to do so are prevalent and easy.

So though absolutely no one asked for my opinion, I decided to share it anyway.

Here's my Plan for Successful Philanthropy:

First of all, get out all your donation receipts from last year. Didn't make any donations? Think of some places you'd like to donate to- based on causes that you care about.

Step 2: Make a list of all the places you gave to and the reason why. Then, separate these into categories of organizations.

For example, here's mine:

My College- Because I attended it.
A Scholarship at My College- Because it is in honor of a friend of mine who died, and I want to give to support his memory.

Dance Kaleidoscope- A great company I enjoy
The AIDS Fund- A cause I care about and volunteer for
Historic Landmarks Foundation- Another cause I care about with my house being historic
Planned Parenthood of Indiana- I support their education mission

Paralyzed Veterans of America- I give to this because members of my family have served, and because several of us give to this org (This is what "Legacy Giving" is- giving b/c your family does).
Heifer Project- I give to this on behalf of my family at the holidays (this is Honor Giving)

Indianapolis Zoo- Conservation work
Indianapolis Humane Society- Local work to rescue animals
Humane Society of the United States- National work to rescue animals

This is the category that things like "Haiti Earthquake" falls under. Did I expect to give to this fund this year? Nope. Will I give to it next year? Hopefully their won't be a need. However, putting funds under this header allows me to respond in an emergency.

Step 3: Write the amount you gave last year and add it up. (If you didn't give, skip).

Step 4: Choose a percentage of your income to give, or decide on a set amount based on past giving. If you're new to giving or don't make much money, try starting with figuring out just 2% of your annual income. You'd be surprised how much that is- and how far organizations can stretch that donation! Or, consider what skipping a night out could do- save that $60 you'd spend on dinner and a movie once per month, and you can give $720 this year.

Step 5: Prioritize your list and assign an approximate gift amount to each. Write that amount down. Then, when you actually make the gift, write down the real amount as well. Sometimes things happen and you can't give what you thought you might. Keep a ledger year-to-year of where your giving is going.

Step 6: Give!!

Step 7: Keep those donation letters for tax write-offs.

Above all, DON'T FEEL BAD about giving to some organizations and not others- the important thing is to give to causes that are important to you. Just make sure you GIVE! :)

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