There’s more than one way to give!

I love that there’s a national giving day in the USA that we can look forward to every year, and this year that day is today on November 30!

Why am I writing a post about giving? The other day I read something online explaining that money is “not an appropriate topic” of discussion and that’s one of the reasons talking about giving is difficult. I think talking about money and giving are both important, and the more we normalize these topics the better off we’ll all be. There’s value in sharing what you’re doing, and learning what others are doing can be inspiring. That’s why talking about giving increases giving — it’s contagious!


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We used to do most of our giving in November and December, but things changed after we reached financial independence and stopped worrying so much about money, and now we give throughout the year. Last year when I wrote a post about giving, I was thinking about the way our giving budget had changed and grown since we became financially independent and the Covid pandemic started. This year I’ve been thinking about how much more organized we are with our spending and how easy it has been to make giving a monthly activity.

Being generous with your money or time can make a big difference in other people’s lives. We’re feeling fortunate and it’s obvious when we look around our home town, our country, and the world that many people are not so fortunate. That reality motivates us to give, and to move a bit of capital around from our hands to other people. This is a good time to pause and think about how we might volunteer our time, give money to organizations, give food or clothes directly to individuals, or a million other giving options. Remember, any kind of selfless giving is a good thing.

And today we’re making some donations on national giving day!


“Where you put your money dictates
exactly what you’re funding, so make sure you’re
funding the world you want to live in.”

Tanja Hester, Wallet Activism

An Important Reminder

National Giving Day is the Tuesday after American Thanksgiving, and American Thanksgiving is complicated because of its history and current day issues as well. For us it’s a day of food, family and friends, but it’s also a day to be thoughtful and respectful since Thanksgiving is a national day of mourning for millions of native people in this country.

“Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture,” says the United American Indians of New England (UAINE).

Indigenous people have suffered greatly for many generations in this country, and the Covid pandemic has compounded existing issues. Indigenous people across the USA (and around the world) have lost jobs, homes, and family members due to the pandemic and homelessness and hunger are even more problematic for Indigenous people now. If you’re looking for giving ideas please consider giving to Indigenous people, communities, or organizations.

What could be more appropriate than giving to Indigenous people on National Giving Day?

Our National Giving Day Plan

We have a few donations planned for three organizations on national giving day this year…

Native Americans for Community Action. We randomly found NACA while doing research online last year and this is now one of our favorite organizations to give to. NACA is run by Native Americans for the purpose of supporting the health and success of Native Americans. NACA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

United American Indians of New England. We learned about UAINE when we were in Boston a few weeks ago. They’re a Native-led organization working to correct our very damaging Pilgrim mythology in this country and fighting racism and other injustices throughout the Americas. They’re not a 501(c)(3), but they’re clearly a not-for-profit organization. They are self-supporting with no funding from any government agency, and no paid staffers.

Project One Corner. We learned about Project One Corner in 2019 when we attended a FI Chautauqua in Ecuador and met Cheryl Reed. Project One Corner is Cheryl’s giving dream come to life, improving things for indigenous people and mestizos in Ecuador where her home and heart is. It’s very important to us that we give outside of our home country and since we visited Ecuador and spent time with Cheryl that makes Project One Corner special for us.

Volunteering

There are probably more volunteer opportunities than we can count or list in a single blog post. Sometimes volunteering is just someone doing some good in their community, and other times volunteering can become a lifestyle that gives people a sense of purpose and identity. Perhaps the best volunteering opportunities allow you to get physically involved with activities that support your values, like walking dogs at an animal shelter, serving food to homeless people at a shelter, giving vaccines to immigrants at a shelter, or mentoring foster kids. Volunteering can also be a great activity for you and your partner to do together, or something your whole family can do together. Whatever you feel passionate about can lead to a volunteer opportunity.

A couple of weeks ago we had some great exchanges with a few people during our Instagram giveaway for Wallet Activism. Each person had a unique story about giving and I was excited to share a few examples of selfless giving from some of our book giveaway winners:

  • From @adamlapre: “I’ve been volunteering at the hot food kitchen where you can sign up for prep, dinner shift, lunch bag, kids reading room and more.”
  • From @listfulwistful: “We have made a point to take meals to folks whenever we can this year. New baby? Household with COVID? Chronic illness? Caring for a family member? We deliver! We have showed up with food more than we have in years past.”
  • From @tifftravels412: “In our travels for work we try to find organizations to donate money to where we are working. In Hawaii, it was the local food bank. In Vegas, we donate to Project 150. It is an organization that helps homeless teenagers which is high in the LGBTQ community.”
  • From @familylivingintentionally: “Donating to @sharonsaysso’s holiday giving campaign, donating a holiday stocking to a child in foster care, signed up to support a local csa winter share to try to decrease our eco footprint while supporting local farmers and eating in season are a few of the things we’ve done recently.”
  • From @jeffrey48304: “My partner and I made a commitment to “live local” this year, by being more intentional about knowing our neighbors. We are happy to mow and maintain the lawn for free for one disabled neighbor, and in return we get more exercise and sunshine.”

The primary volunteering we do as a couple is financial coaching, though honestly all of the “hard work” is done by Alison. Some people reach out to us through our blog and some friends have asked for coaching as well. We work with people at all stages of their saving and investing journey which makes things interesting. This year we’ve helped some young adults buy their first mutual funds in a new Roth account, we’ve helped several couples build their retirement withdrawal strategies, and we’ve been supportive listeners for lots of people working through their emotions and confidence around money. Now that this volunteer activity has become a big part of our weekly routine we’re thinking next year we’ll try limiting the number of days we dedicate to financial coaching each week and see how that goes. But we won’t limit things too much since we both get a lot out of our financial coaching sessions. Alison continues to adapt our spreadsheets after each conversation as we learn more and more about how other folks are managing their money, which takes up a huge amount of her time each week — but she loves it!

The other volunteer work I did this year was working at a Covid vaccine clinic for a little more than two months when vaccines were just starting to roll out and our community was in crisis mode. My job was to be the first greeter and run the parking lot, making sure people had the forms and ID they needed to get their shots, listening to their fears and their celebrations outside from a distance, and doing all of the setup and take down of signs and cones and all that. There was a lot of snow, rain, dust, and dirt in my department and I loved every minute of it. Over 30,000 shots were given at this small vaccine clinic in a pretty short amount of time and I really admired the nursing staff who put the clinic together and ran it so smoothly. I’m so glad I was able to be there to help in a small way!

To change things up even more next year I want to try something really different. I’ve been interested in hospice work ever since we took care of Alison’s aunt while she was dying at the end of 2007. That interest got even stronger in 2012 when we took Alison’s dad home to care for him ourselves, and then I was with my grandmother while she was dying just a couple of months later. I feel emotionally ready for some hospice related volunteer work next year, regardless of whether they want me to sit with people or just work on tasks behind the scenes.

Plan for Giving

Create your own unique giving plan! It helps to have a plan for annual giving that works with your budget and details your individual giving goals. Then you can use your giving plan like a guide as the year progresses and update it annually to make sure your giving goals are clear as they change over time. Whatever your giving goals and values might be, having a plan will help you put your giving into action.

As you work on your giving plan you can ask yourself questions such as:

  • Do you want to give financially or give your personal time? Or both?
  • Do you want to donate to 501(c)(3) organizations, or grassroots community groups, or political action groups, or family, or individuals in need, or some combination of those?
  • Do you want to give locally or internationally? 
  • Do you want to give once a year or once a month or some other frequency?

We built our giving plan inside our Personal Money Statement so our PMS document could serve as a roadmap for all of our plans and goals. We planned to give to family, individuals, charitable organizations, and political action efforts and we described our goals for each of those in our plan. We like to give internationally and we like to give to all sorts of organizations without worrying about the tax benefits, or lack of tax benefits, though we still save receipts and track what we might be able to itemize in our taxes.

Our plan includes the dates of giving occasions as well as individual names of people we give to, and a list of all organizations we have given to in the past or plan to give to in the future. Our main giving dates include family birthdays, Christmas, Arizona Gives Day in April, Worldwide Giving Day on June 15, and National Giving Day in November. Even though we have special giving days called out in our plan, that doesn’t change the fact that our primary giving has changed from once a year to monthly for the organizations we want to “stand with” and give the most to (a term I think I first got from Planned Parenthood). Monthly giving has been a big change to our routine and our way of thinking and it feels like a better way to support the organizations we care most about.

Our giving plan also includes a newer section for our AOC Rainbow Scholarship, which we created as a tool for supporting financial education and relief for women, people of color, and members of the LGBT+ community. Our original idea was sponsoring participation in the Debt Free Guys Credit Card Pay Off Plan. Using the word “scholarship” in the name sounds formal but we aren’t really using this as a formal scholarship though we are totally open to people reaching out to us with a formal request. Mostly we just wanted a category of giving that we can use for any reason to support queer people, women, and people of color.

One recent example of how we’ve used our scholarship this year is when Alison came across a message in a local social media group from a woman asking for advice because she had just found out her niece was living on the street after being kicked out at age 17 because she’s a trans woman. We showed up to give this young woman money for clothes and became friends with her and her aunt who had taken her in. We also used our AOC Rainbow Scholarship this year to donate a few hundred dollars to women in need, to buy a Women’s Personal Finance membership for someone, and to buy 10 copies of Tanja Hester’s new book Wallet Activism to give away. Just a few days ago we also used our scholarship to send money to a family of color after their 11 year old was hit and killed while riding his skateboard in our neighborhood (hopefully the parents will also accept some food and gifts for their two remaining kids over the next few weeks😭). This is just our way to encourage ourselves to pay attention to what’s going on in our local and online communities and help in ways that feel appropriate.

Budget for Giving

Create your own unique giving budget! And make sure your total budget amount for giving fits within your overall budget and spending ability. Put your mask on first as they say, and give within your means! Start by building a giving budget that includes categories for the types of giving you want to do. Plug in an overall total amount for the year, add any specific amounts you want to set for certain people or organizations, and then fill in the rest. After a couple of revisions you’ll have a detailed budget you can adjust at the beginning of each year.

As you work on your giving budget you can ask yourself questions such as:

  • How much money do you want to give each year?
  • If you gave 10% of your income would that feel high or low for you?
  • Do you want to give once a year or once a month or some other frequency?
  • Are there specific amounts you want to give to any individuals or organizations?
  • Do you need or want to consider tax implications for giving?
  • Do you want to use a Donor Advised Fund for part or all of your giving?

Last year we celebrated the fact that we had underspent in a few budget categories and then pushed all of those extra funds into our 2020 giving budget so we could do some extra giving at the end of last year. We have a family policy saying if we underspend in our food budget or our clothing budget or anything else like that, we shift any extra money from our overall budget into our giving budget. But what do we do in a year like 2021 when we overspent on our overall budget? We make sure we spend every dollar we had planned for giving!

This week we reviewed our 2021 spending so we could start revamping our old budget for next year. Our spending has gone up for many reasons this year including inflation, so we’ve decided our budget for next year will be higher than it was in the past. That’s a detail that stresses Alison out but I know we can’t control food prices, or gas prices, or health care costs, or the cost of building materials, so I’m trying to be extra calm about the budget increase. Maybe we’re simply due for a correction just like the market!

Years ago before we put a giving budget together we would get caught up in the moment during any kind of event that might inspire giving, and by end of year we didn’t have an accurate idea of how much we had given. If we found a new cause that was meaningful to us we would just randomly pick an amount that fit how we were feeling in the moment, rather than taking time to think about how much we wanted to give to each cause. Sometimes we gave quite a lot, and sometimes I felt like we didn’t give enough. At the end of one year we realized we didn’t know how much we had given and decided to build our first giving budget.

The interesting thing for us about having a giving budget is that we make sure we spend every cent in our giving budget every year. That’s very different from something like a budget for a car or a budget for clothing where our goal is to make sure we stay under budget.

We’ve built our giving budget to include categories for the types of giving we do on a regular basis. We set an overall total amount for the year and then adjust amounts for each person or organization. It feels good to have a detailed giving budget we can adjust at the beginning of each year!

The End, Happy National Giving Day!

Giving is a great way to broaden your thinking and participate in your community. Getting involved and contributing to the wellbeing of other people, even in a small way, will make a difference in other people’s lives and maybe also give you a unique sense of purpose.

Giving helps me keep things in perspective. I have said many times that my work during my career did not give me a sense of purpose, but giving definitely does. Giving our time and money for the benefit of others makes us very happy!

6 comments

  1. What a deeply thoughtful post full of detailed options for giving back to our communities! Thank you!

    Another consideration I would add is that if you have an organization that you want to support, sometimes an extra “gift” you can give them is to become a sustaining or monthly donor – it can make a significant difference for non-profits when they are applying for grants or soliciting larger donors for donations if they can show how many people make these sustaining/pledged monthly donations.

    So for example, if you planned on giving $200-$250 to a favorite organization this year, check in with them and perhaps sign up instead for a sustaining membership or pledge of $20 a month for the year – your gift may go even farther in helping them secure matching funds or grant approvals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES!! You are so right, we agree 100%. That was one of the bigger changes we made after reaching FIRE when we finally felt ready to switch from being end of year givers to monthly givers for some organizations we care deeply about. Thank you for your comment and for doing such a good job of explaining why monthly giving can be so helpful and productive for non-profits. 👏👏👏

      Like

  2. I was really inspired by this post. I like the idea of counting gifts to friends and family as part of your overall giving strategy. It reminded me that giving isn’t just about passing money to a non-profit organization (although that’s very important too!). Giving can also be all the ways that you make a difference in the lives of the people you already know.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for this comment! Yes you’re right, giving is much more than tracking non-profit donations. For us tracking family giving, organization giving, and everything else all in one spreadsheet makes us feel organized, and helps us automate our giving to some degree. And for me personally this tool helps me verify that I’m giving much more to causes I care deeply about compared to what we give to my problematic mom. Giving is all of the ways you support others with time or money or anything else! 😊

      Like

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