A.P. asks from Fort Worth, TX on September 25, 2009
Donating "Too Much" to Charity...
I'll start with saying that I feel like such a schmuck about this, and just want to see how others feel (not about me being a schmuck, but the topic! ha)... My child's school is collecting money for the local YMCA to benefit its afterschool childcare program. The classes who collect the most money win a pizza/pool party at the Y. My son, being the competitive guy that he is, wants to win and proceeded to empty his piggy bank to donate the majority of it which adds up to about $40. He hasn't been saving the money for anything in particular, but has been collecting the change for a very long time. I tried to gently dissuade him telling him that he won't be getting his money back (he thought he would), while also telling him that the money would be helping kids who didn't have that much money. And that he could earn his money back by doing chores around the house while some people aren't able to work and earn more money. He still wants to donate his $40. Of course I have to let him; I certainly don't want to send him any kind of negative message about giving to charity, but I really hate to see him part with that much money even though $40 in the big scheme of things really isn’t that much. My strong reaction to this really bothered me and got me thinking. I gave up a well-paying career to stay home with my kids almost 4 years ago, and while we’re in a pretty good place now, for a long time we had very little, and I’ve gotten really good at finding bargains, using coupons, and being very frugal – I work really hard at it! So every penny is important to me (whether it should be or not). Factor in that I canceled our membership at this very Y because of the terrible nursery workers, not to mention all the stories you hear about people abusing the system, lying, and cheating to get something for free while honest, hard-working people are holding down jobs and figuring out how to make it without a handout, and I’ve gotten pretty jaded. So my questions to all of you great moms out there is where do you stand on donating your time and money to charities? Do you ever feel stingy about it like I do? Have you or anyone you know genuinely needed charity? Why do you feel it’s important (or not) to give to charity? Maybe I just need to find a cause I can really support… I just want to feel better about giving and actually believe the things I’m telling my kids, so my bad attitude doesn't burrow its way into their character. Thanks so much!
G.W. answers from Dallas on September 25, 2009
I agree that you've brought up a lot of valid points and do I wish I had the time to spell out some of my opinions but alas, my 11 year old daughter is driving me crazy about a friend coming over so I'll give you a quick answer....LOL
Yes, you're right, it is your son's money but I don't think he necessarily has the "right" to do with it whatever he pleases - that't where you come in. It is your job to teach him about all aspects of money...spending, saving, donating....just being an all around good steward of his money. It is definitely not good stewardship to donate every penny you have to any charity. Think about all the elderly people who get scammed out of their life savings because they were convinced by someone that "some" was not enough....plus, your son needs to understand why he is really willing to give all his money...are his motives completely pure? Is it the pizza party he really wants and not necessarily for the Y to be a better place? That's something to discuss with him. Bottom line, I would help him understand that supporting causes takes as many people as possible giving some, not just a couple giving all. If he still doesn't understand, then just be the mature adult and set a limit...if it were me, it would be no more than $10.
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S.B. answers from Dallas on September 25, 2009
You have really raised a lot of good issues for discussion--1) having kids raise money at school and being rewarded for it on a competition basis 2) having kids raise money at school to benefit something outside of school 3) how to teach your child to be charitable 4) how to give joyfully and not feel jaded about donating. I can tell you spent a lot of time thinking about this post before you wrote it.
Before I donate money or time, I try to find out about the organization -how it raises money (paid staff or volunteers), what the money is to be used for, who runs the organization and how efficient they are (how much money gets spent on what they do vs. overhead or fundraising). Find out who the services are meant to help and what someone has to do to qualify. And what type of track record does the organization have--do they do what they say they are going to do. A lot of this information is on charity is posted on Guidestar that tracks charities. There are other charity watchdogs, too. I volunteer with several organizations and I also support them financially because I can see what they do that matters.
I think there are some people that genuinely need help. Sometimes it is their own fault and sometimes it is just a matter of circumstance. And unfortunately, there are some people who have gotten very good at beating or defrauding the system or feel they are entitled. I try to support things that help kids or elderly people since they usually don't have the means or the "voice" to speak up for themselves.
Now about the school fundraiser for the Y program. I was kind of surprised that the school is raising money for the Y. The Y should have the ability to do fundraising on its own to support its programs and shouldn't have to go to children to raise money. I will admit that schools and PTA's and school organizations often hold fundraisers (way too often) in my opinion, but often they are necessary to provide "extra" things that are not provided in the school budgets. My kids are out of school now, but I do support the fundraising efforts of our local schools-I would rather give a check donation to the school instead of buying more candles or wrapping paper. And I always support food drives or paper good drives that the kids organize to support a local charity. There actually is quite a bit of learning when a class takes on a project like that)
One way I was able to teach my kids about charity and community service was to model it for them and with them. We were involved with scout groups and volunteered at food banks or cleaning up trash or reading to kids at the shelter. In that way, they got to see what their efforts were accomplishing and people that they were helping. They learned lessons in how fortunate we were and they came up with their own projects. After reading some books to the kids in the shelter, they decided the shelter needed more books and did their own book drive to help out.
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C.B. answers from Dallas on September 26, 2009
I don't like donating to charities unless they are locally owned like small thrift store(and then it's only the stuff my kids have out grown). We have done the police officer association, the breast cancer group, diabetic foundation, but then we are flooded with phone calls and mail asking for more(which I think is very rude!).
That being said, I don't like to tell my kids not to donate when they want to. We like to find people in the area that are in need and help them out as a family.
It is usally someone in our neighborhood or church or maybe even school. That way we know the money or items are going directly to that person/family.
I can't stand the fund raising at the schools, especially the ones that use bribes to get the kids to participate(such as the pizza party). I let my kids donate to those with their own money if they would like, but I don't encourage them to ask relatives or neighbors(is that bad?) but when they did one where they collected pennies to help out katrina victims, or were collecting things for a family who had lost thier home in a fire- we really encourage that kind of giving because the reward is is better than a pizza party or a bike.
Anyway, you aren't alone in how you feel and I think you are doing the right thing. Maybe you can find some other need for your child to donate either time or money to so he can see that giving isn't about getting.
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G.G. answers from Dallas on September 26, 2009
Well ... I don't know where you stand on Christianity and faith, but ... in the Bible, God asks us to give 10% back to him (it's what is called a "tithe"), so we try to follow that. We don't attend church regularly, so we don't give our 10% to the church, but to the area's food bank and a couple of other charities that are Christ-centered. I won't go into our philosophy, but that's what we try to do, and it makes sense to us. Maybe it might work for you and your son?
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L.S. answers from Dallas on September 26, 2009
I would suggest a percentage of his allowence or money as most financial books suggest. Then he can donate it however he wants. You may also not let him donate, simply because it is associated with winnning a prize instead of the fulfillment of donating when you don't "win" anything. When you just get the good feeling of doing something nice and right. I would definately talk to him about your feelings for not donating all his money, especially to a charity that you find lacking. That if it is truly motivated by a sense of service than you can decide on one that is worthy of his hard earned money. ANd without the "prize" and the brainwashing associated with it. What about a different charity, like the North Texas Food Bank, a local Humane society. You can also start giving him an allowence and teaching him the 10% rules. 10% in savings, 10% to church or charity, the rest budget out for his wants. I would also tell him that he can't donate ALL of his money, just like you and daddy can't donate all your money, even though the charity may well be worth it. And I have stopped mine from doing just the thing your son is doing. Giving it all away for a suspect charity. Until he has a better understanding about where the money goes and how the charity spends it, I would definately limit his giving. Kids his age would give all they had if you let them. So I don't think that you are going to warp his sense of charity by teaching him some smart lessons about his money. I also think it is a brainwashing technique for schools to run programs that support charities and do fund raisers. But we homeschool, so there aren't problem with me doing it, just being bombarded with kids in the neighborhood selling, which I tell them "NO".
I would also like to throw out the idea that if he saves his charity money, by Christmas he can sponsor a child on an Angel Tree somewhere in the metroplex or do the Christmas boxes that some churches do and would have a nice little sum to donate somewhere. I think that you should teach him the fulfillment of giving and charity when there is no pizza party involved.
I think that if you look hard enough you will find the charity that will truly be one you can give to without feeling so jaded.
P.S. Perhaps the food bank would be a good idea. He would be able to save a dollar or two, buy canned goods which can be found cheap, and you can match his donation every week. ANd he can see that you are donating also. Or if he donates a dollar to buying canned goods, you will donate two. Then let him spend the money on what canned goods he wants to take and drop off. THen you don't have to worry about it being a large amount and he will still get a sense of fulfillment helping feed hungry families.
K.F. answers from Dallas on September 26, 2009
You've gotten lots of good responses to your points but I just wanted to throw one thing in there. I beleive very strongly that generosity is a big factor in success (especially success with finances). You need to be able to let go of things. We teach our kids to give time AND money, and I'm working on teaching them to pass on toys and clothing, etc that they can no longer use (for some reason this one is a little harder). We give most of our time and money at church and a specific organization our church supports for the needy b/c I feel like they make good use. I think if I were in your shoes I'd let him donate what he wants this time but then research an organization to support (one you feel good about) and teach him to donate regularly rather than just when there is something in it for him. Just my humble opinion . . . .
(BTW, I have been taken advantage of from time-to-time and while it is definitely annoying and frustrating it hasn't ever done any permanant damage . . . I feel like the benefits outweigh the risks. Those people that take advantage will end up paying in one way or another)
S.C. answers from Dallas on September 26, 2009
I have worked for nonprofits and corporations. I went to work for a very well-known nonprofit a few years ago because I was tired of the greed and corruption in the corporate world. Yet I discovered the same greed and corruption at the nonprofit. If people saw what I witnessed, they'd never donate again. It made me sick to think people were raising and donating money thinking it was going to the cause when it was going to pay for things like high priced consultants who were friends of the executive in charge. A friend of mine said he only donates to individuals who are in need because he KNOWS the money goes directly to help someone instead of administrative costs, etc. Obviously nonprofits have to pay their employees, but I saw many employees getting paid big $$ who weren't in the office or who worked so little, you wondered how they kept their jobs. I now understand my friend's position after witnessing such waste in big nonprofits.
I try now to donate my time and products (I am into the frugal/couponing stuff so I collect a lot that goes to shelters) before I donate money. I work hard to earn my money and knowing what I know now about how some nonprofits use the money, I am very careful not to "throw" my money away.
Obviously not all nonprofits are like this, but I saw enough of it when I was working for various nonprofits (though nothing like this last employer) over the last 15 years to know it's more common than you'd like to think. And the nonprofit where I worked was always "begging" for more money acting like there was a shortage when in reality they had such an abundance of money that we had to hold many meetings to discuss how to use it before the end of the fiscal year. Such waste!!
Not really answers to your questions, but I wanted to share my experience.
G.W. answers from Dallas on September 27, 2009
I see what you're saying. Don't feel bad about it.
I'd say, donate your time. Volunteer. Don't worry about not giving money. Donate things you can't use anymore that are still valuable to someone (like old clothes, tools, etc.) Donate food items that you get at a really good price at the grocery store (on sale + coupons).
Hope That Helps.