I’ve talked about how important it is for me to give of my time, but it’s also important for our family that we give money to causes that are important to us. As the year quickly comes to a close, we took a look at what we’ve donated this year and wanted to execute on donating some more earmarked money before the new year. Accordingly, I decided that each week I’d focus on a different cause that was important, research which organizations were best for the cause, and donate. Unfortunately, October brought quite a few disasters that made looking for causes all too easy. Read on for the breakdown of where we focused our money.
Week 1: Las Vegas
Although these shootings have become far too common, it wasn’t since Newtown that a shooting shook me to my core. Maybe it was because I knew so many people that were there. Or maybe it is scary to raise children in a world where a school, movie theatre, or music festival isn’t guaranteed safe, but I knew I wanted to help. There were so many organizations and fundraising campaigns to choose from, so it was difficult to narrow it down. I spent some time researching the actual charity organizations to determine how much of the donation would go directly to victims and how.
Ultimately, I chose to contribute to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund via GoFundMe, which was a verified campaign set up by the Clark County Commission Chair for Las Vegas, which is tax deductible, and two campaigns that raised money for an individual victim’s family. The personal campaigns aren’t tax deductible but I wanted to help families of victims with young children in particular.
Week 2: Northern California Fires
Anyone who watched the fires rip through Napa and Sonoma Counties last month were probably as awestruck as we were. We also live in a wildfire-prone area, so it’s unsettling, to say the least. But this one hit hard, because a lot of my family lives in the area. Miraculously, the fire spared both my uncle’s vineyard in Glen Ellen and my aunt and uncle’s house in Santa Rosa. Still, it was devastating for the area, and the two hotels we’ve been staying at for many years when we go to my uncle’s vineyard for Thanksgiving burned down.
The whole region needs all the help it can get. We donated to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s disaster relief fund and chose a GoFundMe campaign that supported a non-profit school for children with autism that was destroyed by the fire.
Week 3: University Alma Mater
I went to a large university with a huge endowment. It’s hard to feel relevant when it feels like every month there’s some big announcement about a multi-million dollar donation. Still, I had a wonderful experience in college and it is important to me to continue to donate.
Typically, I have contributed to the school from which I graduated, which is the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. Recently, I dug a little deeper and focused on areas I felt were either underfunded or particularly important to me. Last year, I donated to the undergraduate research fund in the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. This time, I donated to the Joint Educational Project, which is an organization on campus that connects students with volunteer opportunities throughout Los Angeles. Volunteering at JEP as an undergrad sparked my love for volunteering and investing in my community. So naturally, supporting current students within this program was an easy choice.
Week 4: High School Literacy
A family friend is a high school principal in Detroit and passionately works to give quality education to underserved youth. His nonprofit, Stay True, was raising money to provide one-on-one reading instruction to boost literacy. Seven years ago, we donated to Stay True on behalf of our wedding guests in lieu of wedding favors. I was happy to close out the month supporting another great cause by this organization.
A Few Notes
Although some of our giving is tax planning-related, we give to people, places, and causes that we care about. It’s important to know when your donations are tax deductible and when they aren’t. It’s best to consult your CPA, but as a general rule, if your donation isn’t going to a 501(c)3 designated organization, it’s not deductible.
Some people turn to tried-and-true campaigns like the Red Cross or other large, well-known organizations. Opinions differ about whether these organizations do a good job of funneling donation dollars directly to the people in need. In my opinion, for the most part, they do excellent work. But if you’re looking to get as much of your donation directly in the hands of those in need, use sites like Charity Navigator to check out the percentage of dollars that go toward actual services versus administrative costs. So long as you are confident it is a reputable organization, it’s sure to help out those in need.
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