Thoughts on Giving (Charity vs Patreon vs One-on-One)

Many people have had conversations about giving and charity and where they stand on it and I want to continue that convo. I personally have always made giving a big part of my financial priorities, but as I moved out of working in the non-profit space in the past couple years, my giving has shifted - not only the percentage, but the type.

I used to always prioritize local, 501c3 nonprofits that work on advocacy or human services - most of which I knew the staff or the beneficiaries of the work. Like most Americans, I don’t itemize my taxes, so beyond the occasional marketing write-off for my own business, there’s no actual reason for me to prefer tax-deductible (501c3) charities over one-on-one giving.

In recent years, I’ve shifted more than 80% of my overall “giving” category to Patreon and other creator-focused giving (kofi), and things like gofundmes (because America’s medical system is a disaster).

I’ve been struggling with figuring out where my own giving priorities are recently - which is hard to admit, as someone who talks about values and money on the air, and someone who has spent most of her career raising money for non-profits.

Frankly, I feel I get more personal value giving to creators one-on-one than I did making a monthly donation to an advocacy non-profit. This is especially true with creators that might not otherwise be able to make the work they do without things like patreon, etc. But I admit I do some of it for perks - like getting a cool icon on my fav youtube creator’s channels or access to exclusive livestreams.

I also have decreased my giving - both in raw $$'s and in % of my total spending - as my income has gone down since I started working for myself 2 years ago. I have wrestled with how I feel about that.

Thoughts? I know many of you are OMD patreon backers (thank you so much by the way, you’re literally the reason I can afford to do this work) and I know many folks give to charity. What are your thoughts on charity vs direct giving? Do you make giving a priority? Do you do more in-kind or volunteering than cash donations?


We give a regular monthly amount to the cause we were volunteering for when we met, and have for years. But that’s small.

But most of my “giving” is being the grantwriter for the local nonprofit whose board I serve on. I bring in some 80% of the budget for that charity that way. I’ve been doing that since 2007. I am still on the board on paper, but they now hold the meetings while I’m at work, and so other than the December meeting/holiday party, I haven’t been to one in a couple of years.This suits me, actually - I don’t have as much time as I used to when I got started with them, and this lets me do the one thing where I have the greatest impact and where they don’t have anyone else with my skillset or contacts. I stay on the board because I need to be if I’m to sign the proposals I write.


I’ve never given to a patreon/kickstarter type project, and I don’t think I would, but I’ve always had a handful of charities. Two of the charities I support are very small operations that provide immediate housing/food to people in really underserved communities, my donation level for them is huge, whereas it wouldn’t even be missed at some bigger organizations. I do give to some larger ones too, mostly environment/basic needs (water) related. I feel that smaller more local charities are often more effective at helping people, whereas larger more sophisticated operations are better at infrastructure/environment things.

The only person-to-person “giving” I do isn’t really pure charity, but overtipping. I know from working for tips for years that a surprising number of people undertip or don’t tip at all, I look at my overtipping as a way to combat that in a way that has essentially no financial impact on my end (but could make a big difference to the person). I would be interested in getting into vc type charities (microlending) in the future, especially once I feel really financially secure. It would be amazing to help people build businesses.

In terms of amounts I do both monthly contributions and one-offs (like when I have a windfall from a bonus or something).


Interesting distinction, I don’t even consider kickstarter charity since I’m getting something in return. It just goes into the budget category for the thing I get in return (entertainment, clothing, bike parts, music, etc)

Totally part of how I pick my charities too! Especially certain human services groups that don’t get large gov’t contracts.

Oh I thought they were kind of the same thing, patreon/kickstarter/gofundme?

ETA: Just checked out the sites, I see what you’re saying.

Patreon = monthly contributions, usually to support a creator’s work, usually you get some perks in return (like stickers or access to exclusive content). Most commonly used for podcasts, blogs, and youtubers. Especially common to support creators that can’t get traditional funding (i.e. GLBTQ youtubers that can’t get ad money)

Kickstarter = one-off support of projects that “are creative or innovative in nature” - could be run by a group or individual, but it’s usually used for something like a book, theatre performance, new invention, or game. It’s mostly used as a pre-order platform to allow people to assess the market size and raise capital to pull off a project (like enough money to do a print run of a book or game or funding to a project)
Indiegogo is another one similar to kickstarter but the project doesn’t need to be "creative" is another smaller one but primarily used for film projects

Gofundme = gifts of money (usually) directly to the recipient, most commonly used for emergency support, medical funding or funeral funding, though open to all sorts of things. You do not typically get anything in return for these projects.

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Semi-related, in terms of giving/wealth, I’ve always really enjoyed this tool:

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I’m sort of in the process of readjusting my approach.

I have a card that is my oldest trade line so I’d prefer to keep it open. Honestly at this point I don’t think closing it would have a huge impact on my credit score, but it’s not hurting anything by keeping it around. Since I don’t use it regularly I realized I needed a way to keep it open, so I looked at how much the minimum auto pay amount was at the time ($35) and set up payments to a few different organizations to total $35/month.

In addition to that, lately I’ve realized that giving even $20 to a certain cause can help me feel less like the world is doomed with the current political environment, and that cause can change by the month - school supplies for needy kids, a small news outlet that was covering the boarder crisis last summer, a woman-led organization in Puerto Rico six months after the hurricane came through, a GoFundMe (my first ever) for three black churches in the South that had been burned down by a racist even though the internet was buzzing about Notre Dame. It’s charity but it’s also good for my mental health. I just started doing this intentionally and now I’m actually kind of excited to think about who I might pick for this month. I’m also keeping a list so at the end of the year I can look back at what I’ve supported.

I’ve been leery in the past about GoFundMe because of the potential for fraud - don’t get me wrong, I think there’s far more people with good intent than bad on there, but it would wipe out the good feels I’m trying to accomplish if it turned out to be a scam. I’ve looked into some basic tips on avoiding lazy frauds though so I’ll try to do some due diligence if/when I do that option in the future.


3% of my spending is currently donations. I have small monthly donations set up with about a dozen charities, mostly relating to health (Against Malaria, Planned Parenthood, MSF, my local food bank) or justice (ACLU, SLPC, my local legal aid), plus a local animal shelter. I also have room in the budget for other occasional donations (gofundmes for medical or veterinary care, natural disasters, etc). I also volunteer several hours a week at my local library – tonight is actually a shift! – and I’ve been donating knitted hats and scarves to our local homeless camp as I use up stash yarns.

I’ve never considered Patreon to be giving. I spend very little on it, and generally spend on there for what feels like selfish reasons, not charity. Like, I support Seanan McGuire on Patreon because I consider it paying $3 a month for a new short story, which is a great price for 20-45 minutes of joy each month (similar to what you described for Kickstarter, anomalily). So, I put that money under my books budgeting. (More on this below.)

ENTER INTO A SEGUE about my brain and monetary giving.

I grew up in a lower middle-class household that was always teetering on the edge financially, which never really had the room in its budget for a lot of charity, and I lived very skint for a decade as a student. So, monetary charity’s both a new habit I’m inculcating and one that frankly scares me a bit. Like, money! gone! just gone! and I don’t see where it goes. (I mean, I do, but not in the way that you see where your money goes when you’ve just eaten a delicious burrito.) It’s a habit I’m still learning, a habit I’m still stretching.

I really do want to prioritize giving a lot more. I don’t feel good about that percentage; it’s really damn small, especially when I think of what I earn and what I spend on fripperies like restaurants. I’ve been slowly ramping it up, and am about at the point where ramping it up some more is right for me. I’m really glad that you brought up the idea of Patreon as giving, anomalily; there are creators on Patreon who do really cool stuff, and I want to support them because I want more of that awesome stuff in this world – but it’s not necessarily something I want for me, or that I want to use e.g. my very purposefully limited book budget* for. So, I haven’t supported them because it doesn’t feel like a good use of my tiny book budget. However, it also seems like a great way to do some expanded charity budgeting (very direct “support the arts” funding).

*My book budget is small because I own SO many books and I need to read them, not buy new ones.


I struggle with this a lot. I am not hitting my retirement savings goals (like, not even close!) so I feel like I don’t actually have the money to donate. Yet, it never fails that I hear about some person or org that needs help and I throw money their way. Then I despair over how I haven’t put any money in my Roth in a year, then I hear of another need, throw in a little money, lather, rinse, repeat.

It was suggested to me on the other board that I just create a monthly donations budget - but I’m struggling to figure out a) how much it should be and b) if I should even do that when I’m not meeting my savings goals. But then, those of you who know me from over there know that I beat myself up for pretty much any spending that isn’t absolutely a need (current facepunches are re the $25 I spent on Zicam and Emergen-C yesterday because I’m coming down with a cold; brain says, “seriously, you can’t just tough this out?”).

After the presidential election, I gave monthly to large orgs in hopes of joining the resistance, essentially. Planned Parenthood, ACLU, some local immigrants-rights orgs, Southern Poverty Law Center. Over the past year or so though, it’s been more giving to gofundme’s for people I know or friends of friends, usually for healthcare purposes. Also to some local cat shelters. I gave a lot of money, for me, to a cat rescue that isn’t even local to me, because they had taken in a very badly abused kitten (I will spare you the details) and the request for donations came across my Instagram feed, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about him and wanted to help him.

I also have really tiny contributions going to three different Patreons. Two authors, and then that same cat rescue who had the abused kitten because my heart hurt so much for him and he has ongoing medical needs (but survived and is happy and fairly healthy considing what he went through! Yay!)

Part of my struggle is that after the election I earmarked part of my Etsy/Amazon Handmade profits for charity. But then, I was getting sales. My sales are really poor right now and I’m barely covering expenses so that plan isn’t working right now.


This is me. I don’t think of Patreon as charity; I think of it as paying for services I use.


I grew up poor: raised on welfare in a developed nation, by a non-working parent. I have no family history / culture of giving, but I feel I’m in a good position to appreciate the wealth (income and net worth) I have acquired as an adult, and I also feel incredibly grateful for the safety nets living in a developed nation provided for me. Specifically, I believe that the public education system made a huge difference in my life outcomes, despite my being the world’s shittiest student. The public medical system saved my life more than once :heart:

We have a recurring donation set up for a charity that assists kids living in poverty in Australia to access education and make the most of educational opportunities. This is close to my heart. We also give to climate change charities (my choice) and charities that assist refugees and asylum seekers (Mr H’s choice). We pick those categories of charities because those are the needs we feel are most pressing.

I don’t currently do one-on-one giving. Because we have a decent safety net (we’re crazy socialists, clearly!) we see less of a reliance on things like GoFundMe here. I still wish our safety net was better, but that’s a separate issue.

I want charitable giving to be a much larger proportion of our spending (10-20%?) but that’s a work in progress. This thread has prompted me to set up a new recurring donation to my favourite climate change charity, so that’s a good thing.

I struggle a bit with diverting the money away from savings, but I know that I am in a very privileged position and I feel like that gives me a moral imperative to share my good fortune.


It’s important to me to have a “diversified philanthropic portfolio.” Or… it was at one point, and I kind of lost track of it. This thread has actually caused me to sit down and think, intentionally, about rebalancing it. I think my goal is 50% arts and artists/ 50% causes. It’s gotten really lopsided on the artists side, because it’s a lot easier to find out about amazing artists than it is amazing nonprofits.

The replies have been really interesting because I don’t see Kickstarter as charity at all, but Patreon totally is part of the giving budget. My Patreon account is split pretty evenly between the local indie game dev scene, podcasts/Youtubes I consume, and artists/game devs I don’t know but think are doing cool stuff.

I’d also like to rebalance my volunteer portfolio, as right now I’m only lending my time to tech and video game things. I just discovered the Washington School for the Deaf is just across the river, so, I think I may look into volunteering with them. In all my free time.


I don’t donate as much as I should. A lot of my money goes towards reducing my personal environmental impact. Donation wise, I get paralyzed by if what I’m considering donating to is the “right” thing to donate to. Is it really supporting a cause I believe in? Is it effective? Is it well managed? Is it ethical even outside of the main focus?


I count Patreon in my giving/charity category. I also make some small monthly payments to other charities (Dogs Trust here in the UK, Médecins Sans Frontières) and I keep a little aside for GoFundMes that I see pop up from time to time. I’ve never figured out the percentage but it’s not a huge amount right now and as I get a better grip on my budgeting and finances I’d like to increase it.

Those of you who’ve mentioned not being sure who to donate to, check out these charity evaluators:

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This is something I learned from my parents who always encouraged giving, despite the fact that we were pretty broke for most of my growing up. My mother said that giving helps us appreciate how good we have it and that generosity is its own blessing. I guess it stuck because it’s something that I’ve always included as part of my budget. Last year about 4% of our yearly spend was giving.
I don’t include Patreon/ Kickstarter as giving, for me those go under my entertainment budget because of what I get in return. I have some set charities I support and then usually some giving to my alma mater. That probably accounts for 1% of that 4% giving. The rest is one-offs. Gofundme type things, although if I know the person I will usually ask if I can send the money to them directly to not incur fees from gofundme; Angel tree sort of things around the holidays and start of the school year and recently, there’s been a lot of supporting my parents through some medical crisis .


How did I miss this thread? Charitable giving is one of my favourite topics.

In my budget spreadsheet (which I love with near the same passion I love my wife) all giving ends up under the Charity box, including Patreon and family donations. I set it up that way because ‘charity’ is pithy, fits in the box without having to make on of the columns bigger (important), and gets the point across when I post spending reports.

In reality my catch-all ‘charity’ is money I put into the world in order to make it better - more equitable, more creative, more sheltering to children and animals. Patreon fits right alongside the money I’m saving for my nephlings, which fits right alongside the money I send to St. Judes. There isn’t much distinction for me.

I’m also vastly uninterested in the efficiency of my charitable giving. I understand the motivation, and I don’t judge those who find efficiency the most important factor. It’s just not something I myself feel much fuss about. The world needs the person who saves one sand dollar just as much as it needs the person who will design the system that prevents sand dollars being washed up in the first place.



I forgot to answer this because I took a while thinking it over.

I think that good work is requisite to the good of humanity. I think that as a person who is globally rich, I am morally obligated to share my wealth and it is a source of shame and discomfort to me that I am saving for my future first.

I differentiate between
Giving money to charity that supports the poor
Giving money that supports other noble causes (environment, human rights, wellness etc)
Consumer spending that supports causes I believe in
Spending on or gifts to people I actually know

I would actually place patreon and kickstarter type things in the second last category. I’m probably attending well enough to the last two categories, but am very sorely neglecting things higher up. I don’t know if this is a phase of life thing, or a poor use of time and money. I have a small amount earmarked for some antipoverty work.

I want the next phase of my life to focus more on giving than on taking or keeping. Maybe I should cut retirement savings to 10%? Or give up my wantonly hedonistic lifestyle?


Missed this before, thanks to Able_Jack and Elle for bumping. Giving (money and time) is important to me. I don’t remember it being emphasized much growing up beyond a general sense of it being important to help others when possible, but I started doing STEM outreach in college and then when I graduated and moved here to start work I got involved in several local programs, some STEM and some not, that I’m mostly still working with. Speaking specifically money-wise, I started out giving almost entirely locally but a few years ago (cough-Nov. 2016-cough) I added a national component and this year international.

I have two separate categories in Mint for donations. ‘Charity’ is for the type that come with receipts from registered 501c3s and ‘Non-501’ is for anything else giving-related like taking participants out for a ‘congratulations’ meal when they graduate, supplies for outreach programs that aren’t reimbursed, patreons/kickstarters that aren’t feeding a hobby, etc. Things for friends/family go in a third separate ‘Gift’ category even if it’s a GoFundMe, although now that I think about it some of that should probably be ‘Non-501’ since that’s where it would go if it wasn’t for a friend. I’ll have to think more about that.

There are a couple reasons I keep them separate, the main one being that monetary donations to 501c3s are matched by my workplace (provided charity meets certain nondiscrimination qualifications, up to a certain $ amount, insert several other qualifications here), and I’m not leaving that money on the table if I can avoid it. I volunteer a fair amount too, but I believe that there are absolutely times for throwing money at a problem, and if I’m in a position to do so, I should (or at least I should enable the programs that do so since giving money directly to any participants is a pretty major no-no). Offering free tutoring isn’t much help if someone’s immediate need is a lump sum for first month/last month/security deposit to get into housing.

After I’m done working I’ll hopefully be able to keep up the Charity donations through a DAF, but any Non-501 will have to come out of my own retirement funds. At that point it’s likely that that spending will go down, which doesn’t thrill me—it is nice to see the direct results of spending sometimes—but at the same time I’ll have more time for volunteering and there are definitely places where that is what’s needed. Throwing money at a problem does not help when someone is in danger of getting kicked out of their program due to their Algebra grade. Rambly answer, I guess, but at least right now I’m good with spreading it out across the board and I’ll see how it shakes out after retirement when I get there.


It’s funny, because I do both, but I don’t classify the giving to organizations as charity in my mind. I think because I associate the term religiously; I was taught that charity means “the true love of Christ,” and I haven’t really been able to divorce the word from it even though I’m no longer religious. The result, then, is me thinking strictly of giving relatable to churches, like the Salvation Army.

I understand and value what larger programs and organizations can do, so I semi regularly give to Planned Parenthood (advocacy arm, not medical), WWF, Greenpeace, Southern Poverty Law Center, and a couple of local orgs.

I definitely feel better and see a more immediate impact when I give one-on-one, and that’s what my more regular giving looks like. Patreon for a black social activist who does seriously rad work, for a queer femme artist who makes beautiful creations. I contribute directly (Venmo) to a Korean American artist carving healing spaces for other women of color, especially those who do legislative work (which she is also doing).

I absolutely do in that I have set amounts being automatically contributed monthly (Patreon), I budget for extra, and if I feel that more is needed I move dollars around in my budget to make it happen.

I donated a lot of my time in the past with Planned Parenthood. Hosting letter writing sessions, phone banking, lobbying my legislative officials, outreach, recruitment, hosting events. I also donated my time and skills (knitting) as raffle prizes. I’m getting back into the swing of it now that I’ve moved.

Since I don’t have a lot of money to give, this makes me feel better. I also see direct impacts on my community. In 2016 I was part of the major campaign that passed a bill that gives the right to state residents to obtain 12 months of hormonal birth control at a time, making reproductive control more accessible to the individual. 2019 passed privacy protections for minors over the age of 13 by making their insurance explanation of benefits accessible to only themselves if requested (protecting young queer and trans lives especially). This year we’re pushing for mandatory, comprehensive, inclusive sexual health education in all public schools (failed last year).


I’m involved in another online personal finance group, and one post really got me thinking. The original poster gives 20% of their income a year to the tune of $100,000 (I can’t relate, I’m a $36,000/year gov worker).

They feel immense amounts of guilt for having their wealth and not doing more. They’re incredibly thoughtful about who the money goes to, doing thorough research on the effectiveness of their dollar per org. They are FIRE (financially independent, retired early), but can’t help but think that they could be saving more lives by downgrading their car, for example.

At this point, all I can think of is going to some form of counseling. As they do so much already, when does the guilt stop?

Can anyone else relate to this?