So I just finished doing my taxes and had a chance to go over my expenses of the previous year, think about 2014 (I am not the best with a budget!). One thing that stood out as I was reviewing my books is what I was able to do for charities over the year. I won’t say much because that is private but I was very happy with how I was able to stretch myself in that regard.
Whether it is donating clothes to DI or giving pocket change to the Salvation Army Santa’s most of us can do more to stretch our influence and give to causes we believe in. If we cannot give money we can volunteer hours or promote said charity on our social media. You can give blood (which I am doing next week and did in December). You could volunteer at schools, churches, and help out friends.
That said, I would like to focus this piece on 2 major ways of monetarily giving to others that are available to us in this day and age- traditional charities and crowd funding.
Are just that traditional. They probably don’t need as much explanation. Churches, not for profits, civic organizations, schools all count as traditional charities. These are great ways to contribute to society and help causes that are near and dear to your heart.
Most of my personal charitable contributions go to my church, LDS Church. Some is also given to Utah Food Bank, March of Dimes, American Red Cross, LDS Philanthropies, United Way etc.
Here’s an example of the kind of good you can do with a contribution to a traditional charity
You can give to such organizations through events like walks and parties or you can make a donation via website or over the phone (even through texting). Make sure that you go through the legit websites and are not responding to emails requesting money.
Also I personally do not make donations from calls as you can never be 100% sure they are who they say they are and since they ask for my credit card I simply tell them I will make a contribution at another time.
Also, make sure if you make a donation that it is an organization with a 501k tax exemption status if it is something you hope to deduct on your taxes. Such deductions can be a nice perk of donating to causes over individuals but some organizations that look like non-profits actually aren’t. Like our local Utah Masters Swim clubs are not 501k exempt.
You can also keep track of miles and purchases if you are a leader in such causes. Donations to political candidates do not count as tax deductible. The same is true for PACs.
Also make sure to get a receipt to verify your donation and remember that any perks given are taken out of the value of the donation. For instance, if I donate to PBS and get a Downton Abbey DVD set the tax deductible portion of the contribution is minus the price of the DVDs.
So Traditional Charity-
pros- set organizations with track record and staff to implement what they hope to accomplish, 501k tax exempt and can deduct on taxes, easy to contribute and help online when crisis occurs. You can’t go wrong with such donations!
cons- less one on one interaction with people you are helping. Can feel corporate and stale. Corporations can suck up a lot of the money you donate in advertising, staffing, etc.
The next way to help others and contribute is collectively known as crowd funding. I recognize I am kind of late on this bandwagon but I hadn’t heard of it until 2012 when swimmer Anthony Ervin mounted a comeback to the Olympics using the website Indiegogo
Ervin is a type of person who hates dealing with the media and corporate sponsorship and when supporting his run me an ordinary person had the chance to help out an Olympian. That’s pretty cool.
There are a number of sites but 4 I will mention here are Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Give Forward and Patreon. Each of these sites tries to duplicate the influence of one investor by building up a fund of many (or a crowd) investors. So if there is a movie or video game that sounds cool you can donate sometimes as little as $5 and receive updates, perks and feel a part of things, which is neat.
A youtube contributor I’ve really gotten into recently is the Nostalgia Critic (beware language on it but very funny). His experience with indiegogo:
There are all kinds of categories on each of these sites- food, sports, movies, music, people. Giveforward.com is another one just for fundraisers (this is more like a traditional fundraiser, no real perks).
Right before Christmas a byu student suddenly died of a brain aneurism after holding his son and they set up a giveforward.com account and have earned 103k for his widow and child. What a neat opportunity to help someone you hear about in the news instead of just reading and moving on.
Other people have more modest goals and requests like ‘help pay for a funeral for our Dad’ or ‘help me get shots for my cat’. Whatever it might be I guarantee you if you go on there you will find causes that tug at your heart strings.
You can also get behind small companies that produce products you like. Last year I donated $75 to Oogave sodas that make lower sugar sodas and I got 3 cases of soda as my perk. Not a bad deal for me and I got to help a company I really like.
I also donated to a set of romance novels being written with a clean perspective, from BYU grads, because I love supporting local authors and I look forward to reading the books. Another one I did was for the Jane Austen board game. I get a copy of the game and it just sounded fun.
Finally you can help artists make more of what you like. A singer that wants to make a new album, a movie to be made, a painting to be painted. Patreon is all about supporting artists and creators (podcasters, youtubers, authors, artists, etc).
Kickstarter is probably the most popular crowd funding site. They set limits that funding has to make in order for the creator to receive that funding. https://www.kickstarter.com
The thing I think is cool about crowd funding is that unlike a traditional charity you get to help an individual and be apart of their journey. I recently started supporting a podcaster I enjoy called RHAP (Rob has a podcast) who does reality TV podcasts (former survivor veteran Rob Cesternino hosts).
While this may not be as noble an enterprise as a widow and a child it is a chance to help someone with a very minor amount do something that he loves and that is pretty great (its about $2-5 a month). I’ll admit it. I don’t do what I love nor do I really know what that is. I’m content with my work and very grateful but it’s not my great passion. It feels neat to help someone else figure that out and succeed.
The downside to crowd funding is that it can be a one time contribution as opposed to the ongoing relationship we can have with traditional organizations. They are also purely monetary and don’t have physical labor opportunities aside from perhaps attending a concert of a performer.
The other big downside is they are not 501k exempt deductions so aside from the perks (which can be awesome) there isn’t a ton of financial advantage to being involved. It’s more about helping someone because you want to help someone not to help your books. And maybe that makes it even better and more touching?
Crowd Funding- (also named Crowd sourcing)
Pros- help individual artists, creators, causes. Get great perks and rewards.
Cons- no tax deduction, risks of not getting rewards (kickstarter is very thorough with the risks of a project), no guarantee like a traditional organization has as far as how the money is used, what is done with it.
Remember that giving time, prayers and energy can be the greatest gifts. So by no means feel guilty if you cannot contribute to any of the above monetarily. I was just thinking about these two avenues and what I would do this year and thought I would discuss it with all of you. And sometimes all we can do is take care of ourselves and I’ve been there and that’s ok too. Time and season for everything.
I’d love to hear about what you have contributed to. What charities do you like? Do you prefer traditional charities with set organizations or helping individuals you know through crowd funding or just helping individuals? Do you like crowd funding? What are your experiences? Do you feel the perks have been worthwhile?
(You can also simply help individuals you know. Like one of my old roommates is from Monroe, OK and I was given a chance to help people she knew affected by the tornado. So many opportunities)