This is the time of year that we start collecting those random receipts to prove we – paid alimony, had no capital gains, practiced some level of stewardship at our Church. You know – tax time. You have a file where you have stuffed all those letters that nonprofits are required to send you – $25 here, $75 less the cost of the meal there and various, spur of the moment responses to asks. Well, look it over. Is this where you want your money to go? Or in our case, is this where we want our money to go. Or, the question in our house, “I don’t remember this donation, did you give some money to……….?”
Last year, 2006, was an especially, “did you give money to…?” year. I don’t know how we got so out of sync. There I was looking at sending a check to Artist Who Paint with Yogurt while Stan, believing that teaching a man to fish, yada, yada, yada, was preparing to send money to Bait for Belgium, when we met at the computer waiting for Quicken to open.
“You’ve got to quit giving away all this money,” he pontificated as his finger jabbed the computer screen.
“But, my causes are better than your causes,” I whined.
A synopsis of the donations for the year was offered by Quicken. There it was. We had been generous this year, and it was close to Christmas, we still needed money for presents for the grandkids. It was too late to call back funds, but it certainly showed us that we should consult each other more on our donations. Especially when we discovered that we were supporting competing ideologies – ESPN Anonymous vs ESPN Embrace Me.
You review you portfolio and the status of assets and review your overall financial position each year. Why not look at your giving history? For example, is your money going to a cause that has your heart and your interest? Are you supporting a cause because its good work benefits a family member or friend, whether its the arts, scouting or shelter and safety? Are you familiar with the upcoming needs of your favorite agencies – will there by a capital campaign in 2007? Is there a new program that will expand service opportunities? What about location? Do you want your money to stay in local agencies, travel to your former hometown or go across time zones? And what about emergencies – Katrina, Tsunami, famine – the global array of need?
Then there is your Church. Most folks consider Church giving as separate from other donations. However, consider what your pastor will ask of you this year. It may mean altering your overall giving budget. Is there a new mission, a new outreach? Will that money be easily found in your current resources or must another aspect your giving be reduced?
So here are some guidelines to review your giving. Look back over your checkbook. Try three years. Is the amount of money more or less constant? Who are you giving to? Are the agencies receiving your money those with whom you have a familiarity. Or are you just giving out of habit? You might find a visit to a website or, if local, an actual site visit may help you renew your commitment to giving.
Now review all those requests you got for end of year giving. Apply the same scrutiny there. Visit websites and actual locations. Maybe you will find something more compatible with your interests at this time. You might even find a new volunteer opportunity for the new year.
Next examine who you are. Are you supporting what you believe in? Your review may find that your money has been going to a program that doesn’t quite feel comfortable with your personal outlook on life. That doesn’t mean that the agency is wrong, or bad. It only means that you have different opinions on a solution. Its also people. Consider who is asking you for funding. There are dynamic fund raisers who make you actually feel your money working, help you enjoy the outcome of your donation, make sure you experience the joy of those who receive your gift. This may be another factor to include in your evaluation.
The final question – when you give as two – Who’s on the official family list? Negotiate a reasonable list of his and her donations. I know this is 2007, but we still have genders and we still have many charitable needs.
Remember, when you look back in 2008, you should reflect on these decisions and find that you have added a new, more fulfilling dimension to you family giving.
January 2007 Place your Donation Year