How to Get the Best Bang for Your Donation Bucks

We have some inspiring role models for donation giving in the U.S. Bill and Melinda Gates decided in 1993 while on vacation in Africa that they would “give back” Microsoft’s profits to help others. They were drawn to inequities: 1) global disease epidemics affecting children that are easily treatable in the U.S. and 2) the U.S. education system, which is not fulfilling its potential to lift up all American youth.

Why do they do it? In their 2014 TED interview with Chris Anderson, the couple shared that in raising their children they’ve emphasized the ethic of responsibility, “that we are in an unbelievable position just to live in the United States and have a great education, and we have a responsibility to give back to the world.” At the same time, they affirm, “Giving away our wealth is the most satisfying thing we’ve done.”

It’s so satisfying that Bill and Melinda Gates partnered with Warren Buffet to establish the Giving Pledge, which encourages the world’s wealthiest individuals to commit more than half their wealth to charitable causes. At least 175 billionaires have signed on and meet annually to share experiences and ideas to advance philanthropy. 

While few people have that kind of cash to give away, many of us can manage something. Here are 7 ways to make charitable giving easier and get the best bang for your buck.

Tip #198: Donate locally

One way to maximize charitable giving is to stay local. See, our own wellbeing is interdependent with that of our community & our planet. So when you make a donation to your kid’s school or a nearby food bank or environmental NGO, everyone benefits–including you!

Tip #199: Save a $lice for tithing

Tithing is a form of giving you might find in a church. It means to donate 10% of your income regularly. So why not save 10% of your income to give to causes that matter most to you? As the donation becomes habit, you won’t even miss that piece of the pie 🙂

Tip #200: Schedule automatic donations

Positive defaults ensure we stick to our good intentions – just set it & forget it! For charitable giving, you can schedule a reoccurring donation. I prefer monthly so donations don’t compete with year-end expenses. Start small!

Tip #201: Switch on workplace giving

Did you know many employers have an option for charitable giving via payroll deductions? It’s brilliant: just choose a charity & switch it on! You never see the money, so you won’t miss it. Some employers match your donation amount! And if your employer doesn’t have a corporate giving program, why not ask to start one? Besides being a good thing to do, it’s good PR for them.

Tip #202: Be an effective altruist

The EA movement aims to create the greatest impact with limited donation resources: live modestly, research most effective charities, choose big-money careers & donate a large chunk of income. I’m not convinced re: career, but good points.

Tip #203: Consider impact investing

If you invest in stocks / mutual funds, you may know about divesting from companies connected to guns, tobacco, or fossil fuels. So now, why not invest in those that increase social good? Your ROI may be less money but bigger on impact. Just remember you can’t write this off as a donation on your taxes.

Tip #204: Leave a legacy

Crazy idea: make a lasting investment in your values by naming a charity as a beneficiary in your will. Many NGOs have an endowment set up for this & can guide you thru the simple process. You can even designate your gift for certain uses (i.e., make it a “restricted” donation).

Next Week…

We’ll shift gears a bit to consider how much care work contributes to community wellbeing – much of it unpaid and undervalued (especially by those who do it). It’s time to truly appreciate the ways in which we give every day!


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