It’s tax season, so my wife and I have recently had to compile how much we have given to charity in 2011. For those of you who do not live in the US, this is because money given to charity is nontaxable here in the US, which might go a long way toward explaining why Americans give more to charity than the citizens of any other country.
At a little over 0.7 percent of our total household taxable income given to charity, we have given a lot less than I expected. Sure, my wife dedicates some of her time every weekend to volunteering at our local animal shelter, but ideally, I would like to see our household’s charitable giving increased to at least 2.5 percent of our income next year.
Oddly enough, many people are reticent to giving any money to charity. Development blogger extraordinaire Alanna Shaikh (if you are interested in getting a job in development, you do subscribe to her International Development Career List, right?) explains why — and why you should give money to charity:
I suspect that people want to do something other than donate for three reasons. First, they may just not have money — which is unarguable. Second, they may have money and don’t trust NGOs. Third, they may want to feel a personal connection to what they are doing.
If you don’t want to give your money because you can’t afford it, or you don’t trust people to use your money well, I would suggest connecting to local groups. Volunteer in your own community where your expertise is valued and you can choose an organizational partner that you trust. Your time is most valuable closest to where you or your area of expertise. Therefore, you are most useful volunteering in your neighborhood with a community group, or doing your professional work pro bono for an organization you believe in.
The third case is the one that really intrigues me. People want meaning in their lives, and in their philanthropy. They want a sense of belonging and meaning that doesn’t come from their Visa card. Change.org and Jumo were efforts to capture this desire for connectedness and meaning, but I don’t think either one quite hit the mark. Eventually someone is going to find the magic sweet spot of doing, giving, and belonging, and they will have an incredibly powerful source of support and funding.