On Giving Tuesday -What Do You Give?

Graph showing the total charitable contributions as % of AGI.

Charitable contributions as % of AGI.

On Giving Tuesday, What Do You Give?

A couple of years ago, I sat ready to divvy up my charitable donations for the year. I remembered that once upon a time, I learned in church that you should tithe 10% of your income for a thank you/church support/community giving offering. And for the first time as a grown adult, fully aware of my bills and financial responsibilities I grasped how completely ludicrous giving up 10% of my paycheck sounded. Is it possible? Could anyone living a normal life actually work in a budget item for 10% charitable giving?

I’ve always given. I like giving. It makes me feel good on the inside to contribute to my community. There are instances where I prefer to give my time rather than my income. But there are many industries so complex and well oiled in their machinations, it’s best to leave the work to the professionals. In this case, please take my money to use it as best you see fit.

But What Do They Actually Give?

While I’ve always given what I thought I could afford, the moment I remembered the tithing percentage was the moment I realized I had no concept of how I compared in my giving. At the least, I hoped I wasn’t a stingy miser. On the other hand, if I gave more, bully on me for being able to give.

It’s actually hard to quantify how much people give in relation to their income. The primary reason? Charitable giving is only reported if you itemize your tax deductions.

Up until last year when the standard deduction increased, most people of a certain status would itemize and we could track it. Studies will get harder in the coming years as the majority of people in the US will claim standard deductions, but the data I reviewed came from the 2000s when the itemized tax break for giving would have been well utilized.

Through my searches, I found that I was within the expected range for my salary (whew! Not a miser). Also, that if anyone is tithing at 10% to their church, they’re either not reporting it or are in a serious minority. The interesting part? There’s pattern to giving -those at the higher and lower ends give more than those in the middle. 

So Why Give?

Why give? I can’t latch on to the narrative of “I’m a self-made man and I deserve what I earn!” Please. I’m privileged, I know it. Not everyone is born as lucky as I was, and it’s no fault of their own. They deserve some support from me. There are movements and initiatives I think are important, and I want people to devote time and energy to making them happen. I’m happy to pay them to do so.

That said, it’s important to do research into the charities you give to to make sure those things you care about are being supported. Sites like Charity Navigator help you learn where your contributions go once they go to the charity. Do they go to O&M (read “concern for high paid administrators”) or do they actually get dispersed.

On Giving Tuesday, take the time to learn what you’re giving to. Give to charities that matter and feel good about your contributions, even if you’re not likely to get the tax deduction for them anymore. With that, here’s a list of my favorite charities, both Global and Local, for your consideration.

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