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How do you give back?

I just read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and it really got me thinking about how I use my donation money when I give during the year.

40 of the world's billionaires have just signed a proclamation pledging to donate at least 50% of their fortunes to charities. So, I've been thinking about donations, charities, giving, etc.
  • How much do I give each year?
  • To whom do I give?
  • Are those groups really making the difference and impact that I want and care about?
Here's the truth: I am a spur-of-the-moment donator. I sometimes give to my college. I used to give to Heifer International. I always give to KCLU (my local NPR affiliate). I donate as I am motivated. For example, I hear of a cause I care about so I donate some small amount. Then I don't donate to them again. When I read Monique and the Mango Rains I was moved to donate to the author's group that works with women's health care. When I read Three Cups of Tea and Stones for Schools I was moved both times to donate to Greg Mortensen's Central Asia Institute.

Here's my new plan: I'd like to find a few groups whose mission and purpose with which I whole heartedly agree. I'd like to decide what I can afford to give in a year and then divide it by three (or however many groups I pick) and just write the checks once in the year. Then I won't be tempted by the multitude of groups I hear about all year. I can tell myself that I've done my choosing and sent my money. I'd also like one of those groups to be the kind where I am hooked up with an individual person that I "sponsor" and can see their progress. My daughter and I are going to pick one of those from Half the Sky's list of groups.

My question to you: How do you decide to whom to donate? Are you a spur of the moment donor or do you have a plan? I'd love to hear about it.

Resources: Here are some of the general websites that Kristof and WuDunn listed as places to go to find groups working with women in developing countries:
  • Global Giving--allows you to choose a grassroots project to which to give money in education, health, disaster relief (people to people)
  • Kiva--lets you do the same as Global Giving for microlending
  • Plan International--has you pick a specific person to sponsor
  • Charity Navigator--is a database of charities where you can find out what percentage of the donations are put to the actual women versus the cost of overhead
This just in: a friend of mine is an elementary school teacher and went to Uganda this summer with a sports outreach program and just sent me this vimeo video of her photos. It's long, but really cool. I'll ask her which groups she saw at work in the schools.

Uganda 2010 from Vicky Harbison on Vimeo.


Beth said...

kiva is fantastic! I have seen the founder speak before and it's a great place for donations.

Mrs. DeRaps said...

I sometimes donate on a spur-of-the-moment basis, but there are two organizations that I donate to monthly. The donation is taken right out of my checking, so I don't have to physically do anything. I love it.

My two non-profits are: Donors Choose (for education) and National Pubic Radio (NPR). I also make yearly contributions to This American Life, which is an NPR program.

Thanks for the links to these organizations. I'll have to check them out1

Anonymous said...

I am a Christmastime donor. My husband and I are just starting out and are always up and down with finances, so until we settle down I can't make a large contribution, or commit to any at all, although I would love to. However, last year during the Christmas season my local Barnes and Noble started a chartity where you pick a card with a child or teen's name on it and age, and you pick a book you think they would like and purchase it for them. I was only able to buy one book, but I loved doing it and this year I hope to do more. I know this is small scale compared to what you are talking about, but I love the personal touch and the fact that it goes to kids in my community. Thanks for the great post!

Suzanne said...

I like your idea of deciding your donation budget and dividing it amongst your chosen causes at one time. I make charitable donations, but without much of a plan.
I have Half the Sky on my to-read pile. I've heard many good things about it.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Beth--Glad to hear that Kiva is good. I'll check it out this weekend when I am doing my research

Mrs. DeRaps--Having the donations come right out of your paycheck is a great way to do it. I'll have to look into that. I have never heard of Donors Choose, I'll have to check it out.

Danielle--In the past I have chosen a local child (usually at the homeless shelter) to buy presents for. This past Christmas my parents and I joined forces to provide presents for a family living in the shelter. No major presents, but things like slippers, small toys, etc. It really felt good to make a difference locally.

Suzanne--I really do want a plan so I don't feel like I forget to give some years or accidently give twice, or give more than I can really afford (duh).