Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Charity

Giving to charity has always been an important pillar of my life.  As a frequent non-profit employee, I know how much donations matter, and as a person that comes from a place of privilege, I feel that it is my duty and obligation to give back to my community and to help make sure people who are less fortunate are able to experience all of the opportunities this country has to offer.  My husband feels similarly about charitable contributions, and I've always made it clear that substantial charitable giving is one of my adult financial goals.  So now that we are in the throes of budgeting and saving for the life that we want, we are also focusing on budgeting and saving to support the kind of community we want to live in.  This requires thinking about what kind of charitable giving we want to prioritize.

We live in downtown Baltimore.  Downtown Baltimore has a lot of really great spirit, a lot of wonderful businesses, and a lot of crime, drug abuse, and substantial poverty.  It is also a community that has a number of civic organizations that do great work, and that we want to support.  By supporting those organizations, we also support the future of our community, from the ground up.  We care about the environment.  We care about green spaces, about preserving local plants and preventing invasive species.  We care about improving the health of the Chesapeake bay.  We care about slowing global warming.  We care about school children having the opportunity to learn about science and nature in a healthy, hands-on way.  It is no surprise that we chose to get married in a space that shared these goals and values.  We care about politics.  We are supporters of marriage equality, women's rights, social justice, and other progressive issues. 

I will say, we have donated significant time to all of these causes in the past.  We also make frequent in-kind donations of old clothing, technology items, food, or other requested items.  We will continue to volunteer and donate in the future.  But sometimes, instead of volunteering at fundraising galas to gain free admission, I would like to dress up and enjoy myself.  Sometimes, when I'm feeling as if I'm already stretched too thin, I would like to be able to write a check instead of showing up on a Saturday morning to work a registration table.  Sometimes, I know that money goes much further than my time or my in-kind donations.  

So we are working to create a budget for our charitable giving and decide what kind of charitable giving we would like to do. For example, I love fundraising events. I like going out and doing something fun while supporting a cause I believe in. I know from working many of these events in the past that they are often a good way for the organization to make money and they are also an opportunity for my husband and I to build stronger roots within our community and make friends, or introduce friends of ours to great organizations.  We also like to run, and running races that support charities can also be a good way to support an organization, and in my particular situation, is a good way for me to support my friend's whose offices/hospitals/nonprofits organize these races.  

I think there are many tricky things to navigate when trying to create a life that involves substantial charitable giving.  Do you want to give an amount that is proportionate to your own earnings?  Do you want to give a lot to one organization or a little bit to everybody?  Do you want to make lifetime contributions or create a large estate that goes to charity?  Do you and your spouse each get to pick a certain number of charities to give to?  How do you fight against the constant requests from friends that know you are a soft-hearted and giving person?  How do you know that the charity you are giving to is using your money wisely and not wasting it?  How do you know that the charity you are giving to does not take advantage of it's employees and pays them a living wage?  

We don't have answers to a lot of these questions.  For the most part, right now, we are giving what we can and feel comfortable with, in a way we feel comfortable, to organizations that hit close to home and we know will do good things with our money.  


  1. Thanks for writing, I very much liked your newest post. I think you should post more frequently, you evidently have natural ability for blogging!

  2. Yeah, this has been tricky. Since we combined to one households, we tend to go with the give-a-litte-to-a-lot model, although I'm not crazy about it. I'd rather give more to fewer, but there are just so many places that we want to support, and although donations of time are great -- and I do volunteer (although less than I used to) -- sometimes it feels good to give financially.

    It also takes a lot of research to give responsibly, which is kind of a pain.