roundup, 3

Welcome to the 2014 Charity Roundup. You can read about 2013 and 2012 in the archives.

What This Is

I tithe. I keep track of where money goes. It’s a party.

Differences from 2013

I actually did not tithe this year. Instead, I took the amount I would normally spend on my student loans, donated that, and used the tithe on my loans. I did not do a MollyGive Matching Program this year, mostly because it was a lot of effort last year and I’ve been busy. In general, I donated to fewer charities this year (I had not realized by how much until just now), largely because I was so busy I put it off until late December and did not have time to do much research. Instead, I donated almost exclusively to local charities and things that were on my mind the day I sat down to do it.

While I would not say my values have changed over the past year (though they have, as they do every year), I became much more uncertain about where my money could do the most good. For example, I really wanted to donate to an environmental group, but could not decide which one I thought was the “best” based on my interests.

My income changed in November. I did not account for that change. I will starting in January of 2015.

This Year’s Percentages

Charity Percentage
Bikes Not Bombs 13.5
Electronic Frontier Foundation 11
Free Software Foundation 22
Girls Rock Camp Boston 43
Public Lab 4
Wikimedia 6

Drives v. Others

BNB and GRCB both included supporting the fundraising of others. The FSF and the EFF donations were part of membership drives.

How I feel about MollyGive 2014

I actually feel pretty negative about how this year’s donations went. I did not end up giving as much as I would have liked, and while I believe in the value of the groups I donated to, I think I could have put more effort into better researching and distributing funds in the future.

Hopes for 2015

I hope to return to full tithing. I would also like to try a MollyGive Matching another try. While it was hard to drum up the initial enthusiasm among those around me, once it was there, the results were very positive.

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roundup, 2

This year’s donation roundup.

Memberships

I donated to the Free Software Foundation twice this year. In 2013, they started their donation/membership campaign in January. This year, they started it in December. I renewed my membership in December.

I also renewed my membership to the Electronic Frontiers Foundation.
Both of these groups also received donations through MollyGive (see below).

Activities for Charity

People do things for charity. Walks, runs, polar bear plunges. I decided that I would donate the same amount to each person who did one of these throughout a year. I would not make a second donation for a second activity unless it was a cause I personally cared about. Please remember this when I ask for money for the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon. Please. The following charities/activities were a part of that.

*This amount was higher in order to complete a matching donation project someone was doing.
**This amount was higher in order for someone needed to complete their fundraising goal.
+This link is actually for their fundraising page, which explains where money goes. I love it!

MollyGive

This year I started the MollyGive Donation Matching Project. We here at MollyGive wanted to try to encourage others to participate in getting rid of their money at the end of the year. We offered a matching program: Matching per individual per organization. I donated to groups I would not have otherwise. I learned a lot about people I know, and what they care about. You can see some trends below.

Through this program, the following donations were made:

Donations

I also just made some straight up donations.

Someone I know is a clown with Clowns Without Borders. While I don’t like the “Without Borders” branding, I do like that she went to Palestine to do shows and workshops. Their schedule was super rigorous: 2 weeks, 20 shows, 3 workshops. I have a lot of thoughts about why Palestine needs extra care, and even supporting that a little bit was important to me.

After all of this, my two personal charities for the year are Give Directly and SCI. I think Give Directly is a solid group, and current research on charities and giving (and impact) align with the idea that just giving people money is actually the best way for them to help themselves (in many, but not all, aspects of life). SCI is a charity that deals with parasites. If you know how I feel about parasites, you would understand.

Take Away From the Year

MollyGive Matching was a roaring success. Along with almost every donation request, people said that they’d been meaning to donate, but hadn’t, that this gave them a clear deadline that helped, or that it inspired them to look for a new charity. One of my friends even started a similar program!

I don’t think I’ll do MollyGive again. I want to emphasize that this is only a possibility and is based on how I feel at this moment. How I feel in eleven months will be very different.

I liked what I got out of it. Seeing my friends participate in ways they wouldn’t otherwise was inspiring. I learned a lot about my friends, including that they care about giving money to things I don’t care about giving money to. I think I’m going to write a post shortly about why you should donate to technical projects and charities (even though I am not interested in doing so myself).

I am planning on scaling back my donating next year. I’ve spent years arguing with people over how donating is important, because people need help now. I need help now, but I am okay and plenty of other people are not. I feel as though the money I spent this year wasn’t actually going to help people. It was helping organizations and policies. It was impacting life on a broad scale. It wasn’t tackling things I consider to be life-threatening issues. After spending the amount of money I did (a higher percentage of my income went to donations than my student loans) on things I would have consciously chosen to not donate to otherwise, I wonder if there would be a value in taking care of my immediate solvency and existential problems (see: student loan debt). For the next year, I’m going to spend 10% of my income on my student loans, and the amount that has been currently going to my student loans on charity.

I was not able to complete all donations to MollyGive (see below). Separate from my financial plans for 2014, I will be using funds from my personal account (i.e. the money I live off of) to equalize the debts I owe to some of you (I’m looking at you, Vegan Outreach Fund donors). I have records of which donations were matched, and were the discrepancies are.

Over the course of the year, I gave and loaned money to people individually based on need. This has been a very negative experience for me, as people to whom I lent money have not paid me back and no one I “donated” money to ended up using it for that purpose. I have accepted both of these at this point, and am at peace with them. However, I do not intend to participate in either of these activities again. I will, however, continue to buy homeless people coffees and hot chocolates, hard working volunteers will get their boxes of bagels, and I will still buy cold children scarves. I view this section as a disclaimer more than anything else. This is why, I say as an excuse, that I did not donate the full amount I set out to.

I’ve learned that, in spite of what I feel can be a cold hearted attitude towards donating, I really love giving and spending time figuring out how to give. I think I’d be interested in getting involved with an organization that deals with large scale giving.

Appendix A

This is a table detailing charities and the percentage of the total.

2013 Donations

Group Type Source Percentage
American Indian College Fund Education MG 1
Bikes Not Bombs Community Activity 2
Children’s Cancer Fund Medical Activity 1
Children’s International Community  MG 1
Clowns Without Borders Community  Personal 4
Electronic Frontiers Foundation Technology MG/Membership 8
First Descent Medical Activity 1
Freedom of the Press Foundation Technology MG 2
Free Software Foundation Technology  MG/Membership 8.5
GiveDirectly Community  Personal 2
Internet Archive Technology  MG 2
Jimmy Fund Medical Activity 2
Khadafy Foundation Community MG 2
Lilith Fund Medical MG 2
MS Ride Medical Activity 1.5
OpenHatch Technology MG 10
Direct Peer Giving misc Personal 4
Pathfinder International Medical MG 2
Philly AIDS Fund Medical Activity 1
Samaritans Medical MG 2
Schisosomiasis Control Initiative Medical 1
TEAfund Medical  MG 2
Wikipedia Technology  MG 1
Total 100

Appendix B

2013-donations_022013-donations_01

surplus

Giving away money has proved to be harder than I hoped.

I decided that this year I wanted to encourage other people to give. I decided I would offer matching donations of up to $100 per person per organization. This means any individual could donate to any number of organizations, and I would match. It also means that any number of individuals could donate to the same organization, and I would match that as well.

I told the internets and waited for the responses to come pouring in. A few people listed organizations that I assume they were interested in. When I asked them about amounts and/or proof of donation, there was no response. One of my friends went wild and cost me a few hundred with his dedication to helping victims of abuse and rape.

I pushed again, hoping to get more attention. I was louder this time. My mom told me she donated to Wikipedia. Having your mom take you up on this is like having your mom bringing you flowers at your school play, or telling you you’re the most beautiful person in the room. Of course they think you’re great, that’s what they’re supposed to do.

I put out a third call and some people start responding. I smile. Awesome.

If you’d like to partake in their year’s MollyGive program, drop me a line. I am happy to help.

choosing

Choosing who to give money to is hard. I’ve been faced with a lot of people asking for it recently. I’ve found myself reevaluating how I donate.

Walks/Runs/Rides/Activities

I’d love to list people I know currently collecting for these. I don’t have an easily accessible list. Off the top of my head, I’ve had requests for cancer, Leukemia, AIDS, MS, autism, specific types of cancer, and animal shelters. These have been tied to rides, triathlons, runs, walks, and one polar bear plunge.

I’ll donate to any one person once during a given year. How much I donate, I am ashamed to say, depends on the following three factors:

  1. the associated organization;
  2. what resources i have immediately available;
  3. how much I like the person asking.

By “how much I like the person,” I generally actually mean how close I am to them when we do interact, how great I think they are, or how frequently I see them. This is overridden by the first two points. What I have immediately available is the biggest factor. I try to make my default for these things $50, but that gets lowered when there are, say, five requests at once. Earlier in the year I gave $17 to a person who I think is one of the best people I know, just because of everything else happening.

Donating to activity fundraisers is primarily about supporting people in my life. It is also about how hard it is to ask people for money. Seriously, I hate it. Every year I think about not doing the Bike-A-Thon because I really hate asking people for money. It’s also disheartening to try: reaching out to your network only to not make your goals (or minimums) is something I am familiar with. I try to keep other people from experiencing that.

Personal Projects: Supported

A “supported” personal project is one through an organization, or in association with an organization. If you are trying to raise money so you can go with a group to visit orphanages in Siberia, I’ll probably help you out a bit.

Personal Projects: Unsupported

I actually basically never give to these. There are personal projects like “help me finish my film,” and personal projects like “I am going to Siberia on my own to visit orphanages and do film making workshops with the kids there.” In the former case, I respect your project and I think it’s super cool that you’re doing it, however you never ask me to be an investor. You ask me to “donate.” Donations, to me, are about helping and making a difference beyond the individual carrying out the task. Ask for the latter group, see below.

Individuals In Need

There have been a few occasions where I’ve given cash to individuals in need. None of these have ended up with the person actually following through on their need. I have also seen this happen with every unsupported personal project for a good cause that I have donated to. Maybe I just have bad taste in who I am helping. I am willing to directly pay your water bill. I am not willing to give you cash to cover your utilities in a general sense. I feel bad saying this, because I do believe that each case is an individual case, but they’ve all just been such disasters, I don’t do this anymore.

Charities, 501(c)s

These are actually similar to activities. During annual or semi-annual fundraising drives, I’ll give to an organization if a friend asks me to, or if I really believe in a cause. That being said, it’s coming up on membership renewal time for me. My EFF membership expires in October. Right now, I think they’re pretty relevant.

roundup

Background

I tithe. This is at odds with my student loan debt. While trying to figure out how to forward pay tuition for the Chinese class I take, I frowned at my bank accounts, looked longingly at the tithe account, and then promptly sent off what was left of it so not to be tempted.

I put 10% of my pre-tax income into a savings account. This is used to buy other people nice things. This past year, a lot of it was given directly and locally. Generally I give when the opportunity arises. I don’t go looking for things until the end of the year when whatever is left is donated.

Charity Choices

I didn’t do a lot of looking for charities. Most small giving was ad-hoc (though it adds up), and large(er) donations went to formal charity organizations. Ad-hoc giving results in instant satisfaction and fits into the (in my opinion) imperative idea behind “do unto others”: help people out even when you don’t think you can.

The larger groups were mostly opportunity based giving. People I know talked about charity drives or groups and I figured I had money for these sorts of things. I think of these as “supporting people I like” rather than supporting causes. (More on this later). Give Well to help guide parts of this process.

Ad-Hoc Giving

1) Train tickets and bus tickets.

If I saw someone in front of a train station or bus terminal with a sob story about needing to get somewhere, I bought them their ticket. Many people turned down the offer of an actual ticket as opposed to cash, but several people agreed. I’ve sent people to Waltham, New York, Rochester, Framingham, and Philadelphia.

2) Gas

I ran into a guy at a gas station begging for spare change for gas. His car had broken down a bit away from there, and he’d been hanging out, begging for help. He had a few bucks cash, and no credit card or debit card. We filled one of those little canisters and I drove him back to his car. Then, wee both went back to the gas station and filled up the tank.

3) Cavity fillings

One of the things that makes the Bay State one of the greatest commonwealths in the Union is health coverage. When I was unemployed and poor, it helped me a lot. However, not everyone has the capabilities to apply for it. Some people get lost in strange income brackets. Some people just don’t know how to work within the system.

I care a lot about dental health. Tufts is where they send you if you’re on Commonwealth Care (the state program). The first person helped with a filling was a Chinese immigrant who couldn’t speak any English. During my extensive visits, I saw a lot of people make uncomfortable faces and heard a lot of dentists explain in removed voices ideal care options and cheap care options, throwing numbers down to sharp intakes of breath and lip biting. While I’d asked if Tufts had a fund for helping people with dental care, I’d gotten no real response on the matter, being told that “there may be something.” I never heard it mentioned during my hours in the clinic. Instead, when I heard those responses, I’d lean over walls or stand by chairs and offer to help out.

4) Rent

I helped someone pay their rent. Good times.

Charities (Opportunity Based)

5) MSF/DWB

Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, is an “international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.” This totally aligns with my goals (more on this later). However, I am never donating to them again. I’m pretty sure board members are compensated, which isn’t something I’m super keen on, but I’ll forgive them for that.

I donated as part of a Something Awful drive. Having a laugh, I listed my business as “Something Awful” on the donation form. A few months later I started getting solicitations from charities (mostly Christian ones–don’t know if that means anything) asking me for money. By “me,” I mean Something Awful. MSF, why you share my information? Jerks. Maybe that makes me petty and shallow, but I value my privacy.

6) Ada Initiative

The Ada Initiative “[supports] women in open technology and culture.” Sumana Harihareswara and Leonard Richardson were doing a $10,000 matching campaign for donations. Since I like to think Sumana is my friend and likes me, I was happy to help her out.

7) Wikipedia

Wikipedia is fucking awesome. I use it every day unless I do not use a computer on that day. I have many friends involved in Wikipedia projects (and Ada Initiative). When they talked about giving to Wikipedia, I gave for them.

Charities (Membership Based)

8) FSF

The Free Software Foundation is on a “worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom and to defend the rights of all free software users.” When I was an intern there, they gave me one of the USB keys they give as a membership present. I figured I ought to pay for it. While I was at it, I gave them some more money.

9) EFF

Remember what I said about privacy? That’s why I donated to the EFF. The EFF is a self-described “[defender] of your rights in the digital world.” At Maker Faire NYC, I came upon the EFF booth and gave them all the cash I had, earning me a membership number, a t-shirt, some stickers, and a thank you for donating more than I “had” to.

Charities (Chosen)

10) Bikes Not Bombs

Have I mentioned how much I love Bikes Not Bombs recently? Cause I do. I’d love to have more money to give them, but I think it’s important to spread out what I can. Bikes Not Bombs is active locally and globally.

11) Schistosomiasis Control Initiative

SCI fights “tropical diseases,” i.e. parasites. I think parasites are one of the most disgusting things in the world. If I ever get one, I will have a full blown panic attack and possible breakdown resulting in me attempting to remove whatever body part contains said parasite . No one should have to live with them. This donation was managed by GiveWell.

Reflections on 2012

Most of the tithe went to organizations I would not have donated to if it weren’t for my friends. The technohippie issues of free culture, digital rights, and women in these communities are things I encounter every day at work, home, and play. Among the overwhelming number of charities monitored by groups like GiveWell and Charity Navigator, it is hard to pick who is the most “deserving” at any given point. Most of my giving was dictated by those around me.

Left to my own devices, it is unlikely I would have donated to Ada, the EFF, the FSF, MSF, and Wikipedia. I feel as though I cannot stress enough how important these groups are. However, these are all causes I can (and do) work on directly with my non-financial resources. In purposeful giving, I would prefer to put my financial resources towards things I lack the faculties to engage in directly.

Goals for 2013

Next year, I’d like to keep careful track of percentages like Chris and Mad do for their N Years Together, N% to Charity promise. I think this transparency will be beneficial to those interested in what I’m doing, and sooth my own pedantic, obsessive tracking desires and poorly managed statistical analysis of my life. I don’t really know anything about statistics. I would like to share more concrete data with you, without talking on the internet about my actual salary.

I hope to continue the trend of ad-hoc giving. I would like to find a better way to support dental care for people who do not have it and spread the joy of good dental hygiene. I would like to be more purposeful in my giving–looking more for groups working on issues that have to do with survival. I think the global economic inequality is horrible. Absolutely horrible. I would like to see more developments in agriculture, education, and the building of infrastructure in developing and less developed communities.

A Brief Guide to MollyGive

In my mind, I head a charity called MollyGive. You can make a non-tax-deductible donation to MollyGive. MollyGive supports individuals in moments of need and other charities.

If you are interested in receiving funds from MollyGive, or would like to help direct where funds go, I have a few recommendations:

  • Don’t ask. I hate this. Hate hate hate it. I am going to sound irrational here, so feel free to skip the rest of this section. In fact, I am going to make it a footnote.* Instead of asking me to donate, or using guilt based methods, talk to me about your cause. Don’t post a link on facebook or in an e-mail and expect me to click through. Instead, share. Talk about what it does or why you think it’s important.
  • Ask! If you’re a friend it’s okay to ask me directly to donate to an organization on your behalf. I’ll probably say yes. If you’re interested in ad-hoc giving (for example, you need help with medical care) you can ask me about that too and I’ll probably say yes. I also am happy to give informal, low-or-no interest loans if you’re interested in paying me back. Any money paid back will be cycled back into the finances of MollyGive and not m. herself. Myself.
  • Be a cause I care about or am interested in learning more about: agriculture, dental care, education, infrastructure building, medical care, prisoners’ rights and education, and sustainability projects are some examples.
  • I have soft spots for bikes, books, feeding people, and helping people develop the skills they need for independence and autonomy.
  • Do not be exclusive or hate based. No war, hate, homophobia, queerphobia, transphobia. Don’t be a group based around evangelical religion and proselytizing. I think religion is cool, but I don’t think the forced adoption of a religion, or that being an agenda, is a good thing when it comes to helping people.
  • Be someone others will want to emulate. Be inspiring. Be good.

*Canvassers in the street always approach me. I don’t know why. I’ll cross the street to dodge them and they yell after me. They follow me, even if I look down or away. They talk to me if I’m trying to read a book.  They speak loudly in my direction if I have headphones on or I’m talking to someone else. Sometimes I tell them to leave me alone, if they continue trying to talk to me, I scream. Seriously. Sometimes I skip the asking and go straight to the unintelligible screaming. They make me feel as though I am a horrible, unworthy human being who is somehow living my life wrong because I am not giving them money. I also respond poorly to e-mailed and, even worse, physically mailed solicitations. Do not send me letters unless they are personalized. If I get a generic letter from you, especially one designed to make me feel as though I am a bad person for not donating to your cause, I will never donate to your cause. I have a blacklist. Side note, if you’re a group I have already donated to, a gentle “Hey, do you want to donate again?” and NOTHING ELSE will almost certainly solicit a repeated donation.