The Charity Thread

Your flailing was really helpful for me, just so you know. I also struggle with this. I gave 10% of my salary when I made $100 a month as a social worker, why is it somehow harder now that money is more abundant in my life? Oh…guilt about savings? Lifestyle inflation? The fact that I now pay 20% of my income toward health care?

I think about this often. For me the struggle is entirely security based. If I feel my income is safe for awhile, less saving and more giving is easier. If it doesn’t feel safe, then it gets harder because I feel I need to horde savings for the dark times.


Hey thanks, bruh. I’m glad to know my pathetic wailing was useful for the world. I’m chagrined that the solution was in the end so simply, though not easy. Just…a brain trick in the spreadsheet? That’ all it took? Fuck sake, Reed brain. Why did that take yearssssss?

I do get a chuckle at the Other Place, when people talk about charity slowing their early retirement down. Because, yes? That’s the benifit of charity. From you, to the world.

I know that sounds contradictory to my struggles, but my trouble was always a clerical thing, instead of a raw money thing. I’ve slowed my “financial independence” by years, and to me that’s part of the point.


I feel this too, though I don’t think my calming methods will work for everyone here. Part of it is faith, which simply is, or is not. No to rationally arrive at that one.

The second part might be of some use, in that I trust the country, and the future. I will be okay, maybe not happy, maybe not necessarily alive, but okay as long as the U.S. remain a cohesive country. And if it doesn’t, well, the money that I saved vs the money that I spent won’t mean jack crap anyway. So, might as well send that shit off!


Kinda cracking up at that!

I get the clerical thing. I’m not persuing FIRE but because I am surrounded by it, it’s easy for me to see people saving 60-70% of their income and compare myself to them. It’s also easy for me to justify less giving because I’m “saving for a rainy day”

I try remember that I only am able to make the kind of money that I am now because of the giving generosity of others (college scholarship fund, IDA grant to start my business, getting low-income support like food boxes, having health care provided by planned parenthood before the ACA) and that anything I can save now comes from those who were able to give before.

Mine is far less existential - I just never feel like I’ll have a job. I work in unstable industries, usually contract jobs. I just feel like at some point., I will get sick again and my job will disappear and I will wish I had saved more.


I give monthly to:
Climate Change Orgs - Because having a livable world is a prerequisite to most of the other things I care about, and this feels like the most urgent thing to be addressing at the current moment in time. It is harder to quantify the results of giving here that other areas though.

  • Cool Earth
  • The Coalition for Rainforest Nations

High impact health organisations- This (along with the climate change org) is mostly coming from a sense of wanting to be able to provide the most help with what I am able to give.

  • Against Malaria Foundation
  • Partners in Health

Organisations that I feel I owe something to/ get something from:

  • Wikipedia
  • My university Rowing club (pretty minimally, as I don’t think they’re particularly strapped for cash, but they subsidized a lot for me and I do want that to continue for future generations).

Also patreon, which is a pretty small portion of giving, and I’m never sure whether to even count it as charity or buying fun entertainment from people I like.

I’m currently at about 7% of salary here - I’ve been building up this number since starting work by splitting all new salary increases between my pension and charity, so I’m hoping this will rise for as long as I am able to maintain it. Ultimately, the amount that I want to stabilise on is linked to FIRE - it’s the amount that I can afford to give in perpetuity while being able to switch to working on things that I really care about in what seems like a hopeful enough timeframe, which is probably around 20% of current salary if the timeframe is 15 years.

And then have a separate pot (averaging about £500 year) that is earmarked for either helping people close to me who are in difficult situations, or for urgent crises.

I’ve struggled to articulate exactly why I feel I should give. Fundamentally, I feel like I’ve been almost obscenely lucky with how much money I have in the global scheme of things (combo of supportive family, born in a well off country, and having easily marketable skills, along with little fixed responsibility as no kids/ dependents), and I have a responsibly to use it thoughtfully.

I basically see the goal of how I use that money (and other resources I have - time, skills, etc.) as being to balance my own personal happiness (where the big pushes to allocate money are not having anxiety about meeting my basic needs, and a longer-term goals of having a stable home and being able to not rely on work that I don’t really enjoy), and leaving a better world for other people (where the pushes to allocate money are obviously charity, but also being able to work on things that I think are important rather than profitable, and being able to be generous to those around me).



This entire year has been a dance of OMG so much need out there, I want to help/but what if my little family isn’t OK/Boyfriend is out of work and my job is in jeopardy and we might lose our apartment/MY GOD you are a privileged asshole for putting your own needs in front of black lives/trans lives/people who literally cannot afford food, even on one income you can still pay rent and eat, and you just bought some fancy coffee and wine!/But we still don’t have enough savings to pay for a Covid hospital stay and intubation or to be out of work for months on end due to hospitalization…

Add to this that I feel an urgent need to FIRE because I do not ever want to be beholden to employers’ whims and screwing-overs again the way Boyfriend and I were this year. That was an unnecessary amount of stress that could’ve been avoided even with more FU money.

Not giving feels wrong, though.


This is an excellent, excellent thread.

I give regularly to:
-International Rescue Committee
-Natural Resources Defense Council
-Planned Parenthood

This year I also sent donations to various BLM groups, the Navajo Nation COVID relief fund, and a few GoFundMe campaigns for folks with family who died from COVID or who were locked out of the US due to Trump’s international student shenanigans. Also made a fair number of political campaign donations too.

This is the first year where really I’ve had enough income to make more substantial donations, and it’s an amazing feeling. I’m still recovering financially from being an underpaid grad student, so this year I’ll have donated 5% of my net income. I’m considering that my baseline, and then will gradually ease it higher to 10% as I become more financially secure.

I still remember in undergrad one fellow student paraphrasing the CS Lewis quote that “if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common of those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.” Not to say I follow that strictly, but it helps me figure out where to prioritize buying more stuff for myself vs. charitable giving, at least.


Thanks for the link. I checked out a couple of options so far - one very small, the other larger and part of a national network (no 990 on the site you linked, but they had it on their own website)


Great thread. This year is the first that I have made a point to consistently give, but it has honestly been really hard for me! After losing a job and having a lot of money insecurities, giving it away seemed really irresponsible at first. I have been giving my time in the form of volunteering for a while, but giving monetarily was a whole new thing or me. I am working my way up to a higher % of income, but right now I give monthly to just one local humanitarian aid group


This resonates with me a lot, too. I’d be curious to hear more about your system – do you just say “OK, 10% it is” and then set up recurring donations, or do you have some kind of monthly budget item for it, or …?

For me it’s also very security-driven. I have a lot of fears around “will I be able to keep working or not??” because of health issues. Compounding that, earlier this year my partner got laid off (COVID whee), and so did one of our housemates, and then I was the only person out of four with an income for a few months. Eep. So this year didn’t feel particularly secure, and I ended up not increasing my donations much.

It looks like I ended up donating about 5% of my net income this year. Hopefully next year I’ll do more now that I feel less pressure to “play it safe”. There’s room for it in my budget, I just need to…do it.


This year is my first year giving recurring donations. In previous years we’d give as emergencies or significant events came up and then a lump sum in December.

Recurring donations:
Brown Hope - local, support and opportunities for BIPOC folks
The Bail Project - national bail fund

Annual donations:
Mennonite Central Committee - disaster relief, food/health assistance
Oregon Public Broadcasting - local journalism
Electronic Frontier Foundation - free speech, digital privacy

I want to add a climate change org to this list so will be following this thread for ideas!


We give to a few creators like A Practical Wedding, Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and MBMBaM. The first two feel more like giving than paying for entertainment since we love the mission. We give to Wikipedia. We give a few bucks to churches we visit here and there too.

As of now, our big donation is to Effective Altruism funds. We give $9,000 to their global health initiatives and $1,000 to their admin/priority research funds. I would like to add on more local efforts and more social justice initiatives but haven’t done the research yet.

$5,000 of that is an employer match. It ends up being 6 percent of net income.

Next year will probably be tighter $ wise and the employer match is probably going down, so it will be more like $6k total and 4 percent net income.

I would like to do better but being in a HCOL area, we are currently at the point where it’s tight to do things like buy a house, buy a car, and pay for expensive childcare. I want to lock down these things that feel essential and are a source of security to me before I ramp up our charitable contributions. (Of course, I know having a house and car in HCOL is actually an enormous privilege, but I still want the security and freedom the two provide.)


We only give locally to the Salvation Army, local people and dog shelters. We gave more when working but had to cut back once retired. Before the virus I also volunteered.


I really miss volunteering.


I tend to do tons of small recurring donations, focused on mostly on civil rights, health care (especially women’s health), and basic food and shelter for humans and animals. Charity is a budget line for me, so I also make sure to have room in the budget for one-offs, because it means that I know I have money set aside for things like disaster relief.

Doctors Without Borders is the charity I prioritize most, and I’m considering upping the donation there considerably. I also want to get some more environmental charity going – will take your recs! :wink:

monthly donations

Southern Poverty Law Center
local food bank
local SPCA
local homeless emergency shelter
Fistula Foundation
Against Malaria
Planned Parenthood
Doctors Without Borders

some spot donations from this year

Oakland People’s Breakfast
Take Action Minnesota
bunch of individual mutual aid gifts
grad student strike fund
Navajo Nation COVID relief
bunch of local disaster relief after the fires
some extra donations to Doctors Without Borders
Owl Research Institute

Charity is currently at around 5% of my take-home; I’ve been upping it over the last two years, and hope to get to 10% of take-home or so in the next two years. For ~various reasons~ I lived with a scarcity mindset for many years (I remember when paying $5 for a ticket to a student play in undergrad was a serious pinch in my budget). To be able to really get myself to donate at larger amounts, I had to move into much more of an abundance mindset. I’ve been able to do that, in part because I really do have so fucking much – I make high five figures with no children. It doesn’t matter that I live in a VHCOLA, that is still objectively a fuck-ton of money. I have a lot and I do think it’s a moral imperative to share that with my community. So, gonna keep on raising those donation amounts.

ETA: Haha yeah this has me contacting MSF just to fucking do the thing. Excellent. :3


Thirded. the only thing I can do now is teach Pay it Furward virtually, and do admin-y stuff for campaigns and orgs. I really miss that connection that I had, one of my volunteer gigs I’d been doing for 14 years.


In no particular order our monthly giving goes to:

-local homeless org
-local pregnant womens shelter
-our church
-local United Way
-and a small monthly amount to an cancer hospice house in a developing country founded and run by a friend of mine.
-occasional other rando things that come up

Aside from the friend charity, we like to keep it as close to home as possible. I haven’t done the math yet, but I think we’ll probably end up giving around 12% of net this year. We could and should do better.


@TrisPrior, you reminded me about Amazon Smile! That’s an easy way, if you do/must purchase from Amazon, to have 0.5% of eligible purchases go to charity. Mine is set to the theatre company I’m a member of. (It’s generated something like $4 in 5 years, but every little bit, right?)


My workplace has a matching donation program up to a certain dollar amount for contributions to 501c3s, so at the start of every year I plan to hit the match. Major recipients this year were Médicins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, SPLC, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and some local organizations for homelessness/poverty prevention and recovery, support for foster kids aging out, and animal rescue.

Every year there end up being some campaigns outside the normal match limit too, usually in response to natural disasters…this year has been a little crazy with COVID worldwide, racial justice in the US, fire recovery in multiple US states, fire recovery in Australia at the start of the year, and then a couple for cyclones and flooding in Asia as well, but I think I’ve managed to hit most of them.

Outside of that I do some non-501c3/unmatched 501c3 donations to art orgs, Patreons online, and sometimes GoFundMes for friends although in that case I much prefer just giving anonymously if possible. This year added Donors Choose for some teacher stuff since a couple of my cousins teach in districts where money is tight even in non-plague years

Percentage-wise as of now it’s worked out to about 8% net income or 31% spend pre-DAF contribution (to be clear I don’t spend much relative to my income)…a couple work friends and I have talked about doing a match-spending-with-donations challenge next year which is a little hard to wrap my head around, but at the same time we’re all very well paid so it seems like it’s worth pushing for.


Agree with all of you…in non-plague years I tutor for a couple of the orgs I donate to, organize workshops/panels through work for various camps, and teach part of a class at a local high school. This year the class was cancelled entirely, two-thirds of the camps were cancelled and the remaining ones went virtual (figuring out workshops there was interesting since shipping soldering irons was contraindicated for many reasons), and I am officially not good at being a video math tutor.