A poll - Contributing to charities - how much?

lois418February 25, 2007

While I was getting my tax info together, I realized that we had not contributed to charities/church as much in 2006 as in past years. (2 kids in college and all that!) Got me wondering...

How much do you contribute to charities/church during the year? Is it a % of gross or net income? Random contibutions?

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I have a number of churches, mainly ones from which I entered ministerial studies or where I ministered for a number of years (including a couple that fired me), plus Univ. and seminary that I attended, plus some social, and health-related situations that I've supported for a number of years. My son recently gave me a poke in the head for supporting congregations that had fired me.

Plus overseas relief, service and development - I worked in that field for several years (son was born abroad).

A larger portion than I might ordinarily, as I was really pissed off at the church a number of years ago, after I'd been fired for what I felt to be minor reasons, and rarely attended church or supported it for over 10 years - or other charities, either, I'm rather embarrased to admit.

Though my income was rather small for a number of years, back then.

Total these days somewhere around 12% of income.

Plus political contributions, partially deductible.

Probably around 15% of income, in all.

Two or three years ago I was payig just over 10% of my income in tax, and last year, with temporarily increased income, was down to about 8.75% ...

... or so I thought - until I received a rather small tax refund, after which I did not recalculate - probably about 8-1/3% - 8.5%.

I don't like getting major tax refunds - don't like making interest-free loans to the income tax people (my partners in crime - they want part of my annal income). [That was supposed to be "annual income", folks - this dratted keyboard seems to have a mind of its own!) Don't you dare suggest that I seem to have a tendency to be anally retentive!

Have yourselves a great week, everyone.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 2:27PM
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Our contributions have been quite variable the last few years. The DH took early retirement, and we don't want to touch his retirement accounts for a few years. My income is low (by choice - I work for myself, and choose to spend more time with family). But last year our contributions were 25% of net income.

Very unusual, but our college age son chose to participate in a charity bicycle ride benefitting the American Cancer Society, and needed to raise a minmum of $4K. They rode bicycles from Austin Tx to Anchorage AL. He got about a $1500 from us. We also donated to the Texas 4000 for Cancer (the group riding), a generous donation to help out with trailer rentals and such.

This was an unusual donation for us. We always donate to Habitat for Humanity, the Heifer Foundation, and to several local women's and children's shelters. Since our income is low, we had to donate less than usual to some of our pet charities last year.

And my DH provides a neighborhood recycling pick-up for our neighborhood - he asks $60/year from each resident, and provides a weekly recycling pick up. Everything over his fuel costs are donated to the non-profit recycling center he takes the stuff too. We do not take a tax deduction for this.

This was long and drawn out, LOL. But I wanted to point out that your charitable contributions can vary over the years according to your circumstances, while still keeping you in that "REALLY GOOD PERSON" category!

Averaged over the past 10 years, I'd say our contributions are about 12-15% before the kid was in college, maybe 8% last year, not including the contribution to the Austin-Anchorage ride.

So all of this was to ease your mind. Children in college reduce your discretionary income. Don't beat yourself up about this. You are providing your children with the means to support themselves in the future, and eventually to contribute to the good of society in their own right. Not all "good works" are monetary.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 9:58PM
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I guess you could say our monetary donations are random
I echo maryc
"Not all "good works" are monetary"

I volunteer quite a bit of my time I am involved in 3 or 4 projects with non-profits
My mother said it best" I may not be able to give allot of money but,I can give my time"
30+ years later I am still following in her footsteps


    Bookmark   February 26, 2007 at 8:52AM
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Time is almost harder to come by than money these days....

I probably end up contributing around 8-10% of my income. Long ago I decided that I would support a few causes well rather than scattering a few bucks everywhere. So that's what I do. Aside from a couple of boxes of G.S. Cookies or random donations to Salvation Army kettles, the giving is planned.

I allot donations in units I call "Bushies" (kind of like the Canadian "Loonie". Hmmm....). It started when I got my share of the famous Dubya tax cut. I knew there were people who needed that money far more than I did. So I started donating that amount (1 Bushie) to a local food shelf monthly. I've since bumped the food shelf to a second Bushie per month and like to allot other donations that way, as well. It reminds me of the linkage between what government ought to do -- and what it does not. :-)

    Bookmark   February 26, 2007 at 9:15AM
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Thank you for your generosity, folks.

I hear that U.S. people are much more generous than Canadians.

O Steve,

I don't know whether you have a Moses in the U.S., or are seeking one - but this Bush is not for burning.

Isn't consumed, in any case - sort of like the original.

When an individual is deep in debt, paying more than earning every year ...

... and requests employer for volutary pay cut ...

... what kind of sense does that make??

How can it work for countries?

How to justify tax cut?

(It did affect mostly the [relatively] wealthy, didn't it?)

Our rich-folks-friendly govt. just arranged for folks with solely income from one investment source to move from $27,000. or so to about $40,000. annual income resulting in precisely the same income tax liability - $00,000.00 (no misprint).

Seems as though a multi-millionaire of certain type ...

... and a homeless person ...

... pay exactly the same amount of income tax.

Ain't that sweet?

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 26, 2007 at 6:48PM
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Working as a tax preparer I'm surprised by the difference (and often indifference) in giving. Here is some idea of the various levels of giving that I see and some traits that are pretty common within that level of giving.

I have a number of clients that earn a middle-income and give $3000 or more each year to charity. From my experience those that give the most generously are active church participants though their donations are not limited to church nor is the majority of the donations to a church. Most of their donations are for a minimum of $100 to each individual charity and often to the same charities each year.

The next group of donators is executives earning a higher income. Most often their donations are payroll deductions to United Way and vary from $520 to $1040 per year. As you might guess they work for companies that host United Way employee fundraising meeting. Quite often this is the only donation they make.

The next group of donators is your average earner. They often have a weekly payroll deduction ($52-$104/year) to the United Way. Often include church donations of around $500 per year. Notable this group of donators while providing smaller dollar donations of $5-$50 is the biggest supporter of the local police, fire company, kids charities, and veterans charities. They may give to different charities each year. Overall their donations usually fall between $200-$700 per year.

But the surprise to me is how many people do not give any charitable donations especially those with higher incomes ($100,000+). I was also surprised by how very few clients made donations in support of Katrina.

I've noticed while preparing returns this year the amount of charitable donations was less than last year. The higher cost this past year for gas, increased property taxes, and medical expenses was often mentioned. I expect that next year with the requirement that donations require a receipt (or cancelled check for donations of less than $250) will further decrease the amount of donations that are claimed.

On a personal note I will say that this year I too have less charitable deductions on my tax return than in previous years. Some of this is because my income was much lower this year. And some of it is because instead of donating to a charity we chose instead to help some friends and family in need. We gave some money to a friend who's husband was injured and could not work for 3 months. It was not alot of money but very appreciated. And last year a client of mine was very ill and out of work. I sent a note and a check to them as I knew they were facing financial problems with the loss of income and medical expenses. We also have a family member facing a serious medical problem and we helped them out. So our tax-deductible donations have been less but our hearts are in the right place.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 3:27AM
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I think many people are suffering from "charity burnout". Between the tsunami and Katrina and the continual chipping away of funding by any government entity you can name, charities are facing greater demand and lower income than ever. Add to that a few well-placed scandals regarding the lifestyles of those in charge compared to those needing charity (Red Cross, New Orleans). Add to that organizations which treat one donation as a foot in the door and promptly spend what seems like the entire donation's worth in an effort to get you to contribute more.

I also think people are becoming more aware of the organizations that call themselves "charitable" while not doing a particularly effective job of moving the donation to those receiving the benefits. I can think of one national organization that must spend a minor fortune on pens and paper pads and glossy promotional material and TV commercials for their annual pledge drive; I think the money would be better spent on the programs they fund, so I tend to bypass the national organization and give directly to the organizations they fund.

Put that all together with rising prices (though with the swell economy, you have to wonder how this is happening) and it's hard times for charities as well as those they fund.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 10:06AM
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steveo you made excellent points! The burnout, the mismanagement, the unending requests for more money have really made people question before giving.

One of the biggest "charity" scams in our area is telemarketers calling for donations. I've been educating my clients to ask before giving as many of these phone calls for donations are from telemarketing firms and the charity often receives less than 5% of the actual donation! Clients have been shocked and angry once they found out and in turn those telemarketers have gotten an earful with the next call!

I encourage my clients to make their donations directly to the charity (such as the police, fire dept, hospital, schools, etc) that is in their community. There are great charities that need the help right in your own community.

It's amazing how far our local small-town volunteer fire company stretches it's donations to purchase equipment and fire trucks. And our fire company raised enough money to purchase EMS equipment and training. They are an ALL-volunteer fire company and provide 24/7 protection for just about anything you can imagine. We donate to the local fire company every year because we know this money goes to good use!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 12:48PM
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We make NO contributions to telephone solicitations. If they have our address they're free to send us their material for consideration. I won't give them our address though.

I agree with you that it's more difficult as the kids move out and in our case, far away. Travel expenses are high.
In a couple years we could potentially have 3 in college.

Most of our contributions are similar from year to year, and it's around $10,000 total. About $7000 of that goes to our church (actually it's grain donated to the church and sold in the church's name since we farm) & the balance to various entities such as Make-A-wish, Rescue Missions, Cancer Society, Heart Assn, Fire Department, Colleges, etc. We volunteer with a few local organizations and I play piano at the nursing home regularly.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 9:12AM
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Good points.

I have one more charity gripe. One year we contributed to a dental clinic that we thought was free standing and serving its low income neighborhood well. FWI, Medicaid will cover extractions but not dentures. (I was having major dental problems and felt very fortunate to be able to pay for what I needed.)

We were really dismayed when the 'thank you' came from the huge private medical conglomerate here, the sworn enemy of my household of public health providers! Apparently the little dental clinic is a subsidiary of "The Evil Empire". Never in a million years would I have knowingly given THEM money.

I seriously doubt my contribution actually bought dentures for 5 people.

PS for the OP's poll, we allocate 10% of our budget to charity. Sometimes give more. (But that budget starts with net, after taxes and retirement savings take half right off the top.)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 10:22AM
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I'm not sure how much I give - I always think it should be more. I also consider how much of my income goes to pay taxes - much of that is charitable giving when you consider how many government programs are available for less fortunate people.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 11:53PM
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LOL @ Evil Empire! That wouldn't be UPMC, would it?

Our charitable giving is a minimum of 10% of all our expenses. Yes, we volunteer but don't count that (even though volunteering is extremely important!). And we don't factor in that our taxes support government programs. It's is a plain and simple 10% minimum... as shown in the Quicken pie chart! LOL!!

It is tough because we also have two collegians. But we firmly believe that much is expected of those who are given much. We are sooo blessed with health, family, etc. that we are happy to donate, even though it IS tough with those college payments!

We choose our charities wisely... and almost all are local. We will never donate to anyone who cold-calls us.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2007 at 8:49AM
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