The Nonprofiteer was doing some charitable giving the other day–the first quarter is over, taxes are paid, financial situation is clear–and noticed the following disquieting things:
- She’s not actually giving very much when measured by her net worth–what looked and felt like a lot of money, and was intended to constitute her giving for the entire year, turned out to be a mere 2-1/2% of her net worth. She’s always fallen far short of tithing, but at last computation her gifts amounted to more like 5%. The lesson: make sure your giving is keeping pace with your wealth. If you have any money at all in equities, you’re likely quite a bit richer now than you were even at this time last year.
- None of her gifts went to other donors (the Chicago Foundation for Women, the Crossroads Fund). Should they? Are the problems she’s concerned with more likely to be solved through that sort of collective action, or is she just adding a layer of bureaucracy between her gift and the agencies that need it?
- She’s giving to ten recipients but maybe five recipients getting twice as much would be better. It would certainly be better for the groups receiving double the funding; would it really be more "strategic," have more of an impact on the problems the she hopes to help solve? Or would it just injure and incapacitate the groups voted off the island, without any countervailing benefit?
- If she is giving to too many groups, she has no idea how to whittle them down. They’re all in the right areas–she made sure of that years ago, creating five categories of work to support: women, poverty, education, arts and culture, human/political rights. None of those areas seem expendable. In choosing [among] recipients, she considers what other access they have to funds: less to her alma mater because of its thousands of alumni, more to the Chicago Abortion Fund because some people consider its work controversial and won’t support it. But she isn’t willing to cut off the University of Chicago entirely–she owes it everything.
- Which reveals that she doesn’t know what, precisely, she’s doing with her charity–repaying debts, or enacting ideals, or solving problems, or ameliorating suffering. Needless to say, until it’s clear what she’s trying to do it’s hard to tell whether or not she’s succeeding.