On Giving

I've been thinking a lot about how philanthropy reflects family values right now. I just wrote this for the PTA blog:

At the PTA meeting on Monday night, we discussed both why the school needs to raise funds, and that PTA needs to also separately raise funds to augment the school’s activities.
As we went home last night, my husband, daughter and I got into an interesting discussion about giving, which made me think about how different families handle charitable giving — if their budget allows or it at all.
For Beatrix, we have set her allowance up on a spend/save/give model, where a certain percentage of her weekly funds go into each jar. So far, for her, the giving has all been focused on animal-related causes when the jar gets full enough, but it’s always her choice.
Some families I know give an annual percentage basis, similar to tithing — though it often goes to more than just their church. Others set a fixed dollar amount per year, which is often conscious of an ongoing pattern of giving to selected causes.
I have to admit that our own family’s giving is far more chaotic. We tend to give to causes based on what strongly appeals to us, whether that is emotional impact, a matching challenge, or an effort that seems really important at the time (such as hurricane relief). Today we donated to three crowdfunding initiatives for friends. And yes, Randolph Heights has become one of our main focuses, whether that is pledging for an event like the Fun Run, buying Gerten’s gift cards, or simply making sure we save box tops.
I’m about to start working on the fundraising plan for the PTA for the year. What are your family’s giving strategies and priorities, and how might Randolph Heights appeal to them?
But in the past several days, I've also been noticing a lot of ways that giving is leveraged. We have several galas coming up. An online friend is raising money to help her family in Puerto Rico by selling (delicious) brisket and sides, which I got for Patrick for his birthday dinner tonight. We bid on items for a silent auction. These cases were really great opportunities that also benefited us in very direct ways. While I normally just give to give, I have to admit that these "extras" pushed us to give a little more at a time when I am feeling a little more strapped for funds.

I'm also thinking about what happens when giving declines, after a prominent local arts organization laid of all its staff and is re-evaluating its future existence.

It's a very tenuous world, and I am thinking a lot about it lately...


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