Money To Live

September 19, 2012

Clothes Swap

Filed under: entertainment,philanthropy,savings,spending — by moneyconsciously @ 12:13 pm

A friend organised a clothes swap. She collected friends’ clothing items that were ready for a new home; sorted and hung them on racks; and hosted a party during which we could try on and buy clothes at $1 per piece. We all left with ‘new’ pieces of clothing, donated the remaining clothing, and raised over $300 for charity.

I acquired a year’s wardrobe for $20. My new wardrobe included: professional workwear and dress items, all still in good condition, that would have normally cost a hundred times more; clothing experiments that I might normally not have tried at retail price; and a few frivolous extras just for fun.

This was a great win-win. Apart from enjoying a good spring clean and a good party, we saved money ourselves and raised money for charity.

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October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

Filed under: philanthropy — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
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Today is Blog Action Day, and the theme is Poverty.

An organization enabling families to move out of poverty is Kiva. Through Kiva, individuals like you and me can make micro-loans to individuals around the world. Local offices manage the funds and help people prepare their proposals.

My father is notoriously difficult to find gifts for, so one year for Father’s Day I opened a Kiva account in his name. He seemed to like the idea, especially since I offered to manage the loans for him. So far, the Father’s Day gift has been loaned to a seamstress in Samoa and two different grocery clerks in Cambodia. As the loans are repaid, the money is put back into the Kiva account, and it can be withdrawn or re-invested in a new loan (note, these loans do not pay interest to the depositor).

October 9, 2008

Donor intent

Filed under: philanthropy — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
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A big issue that fundraisers have to think about is donor intent — what strings are attached to a donation?

A fundraiser for an opera house in a large city told me that donor intent is a huge problem. Everyone wants to fund the summer opera series, but no one wants to pay the electricity bill (or her salary).

Sometimes, the issue of donor intent arises long after the donation has been made. Princeton University has been sued by descendants of a donor who gave $35 million dollars in 1961, claiming that their parents’ wishes have not been carried out. While the gift was intended to train students to enter public service,  many graduates opt instead for more lucrative careers.

I think about donor intent when making a donation.

There are two small organizations that I support with “no strings attached” because I personally know the people managing the finances, and I trust them. If money is needed to pay the electricity bill, then I am happy supporting in that way.

In the past, I have donated to Oprah’s Angel Network. Oprah takes care of the we-have-to-pay-the-electricity-bill problem by covering all administrative costs of running her charity.

In the future, I plan to give to Princeton University “with strings attached.” I  do not want to fund yet another party for the undergrads. I will give to two programs that I got value out of: graduate student travel funds and the new graduate student leadership program. The travel funds sent me to a conference in Banff. The leadership program started my last year in school, and was the only formal avenue for talking about leaving academia.

I am curious to hear from you — how does donor intent influence your giving?

August 8, 2008

Giving to the homeless

Filed under: philanthropy — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am
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If you are reading this, you probably have enough money to live, but an estimated 123,833 people in the United States do not.

In Princeton, I saw a homeless person sleeping in a neighborhood park on Sunday. This rarely happens because the homeless community is kept away from the university and downtown area. Most of the time, I don’t see it, so I don’t think about it.

Moving to northern Virginia (today actually!), I’ll be spending some of my weekends in DC, which has a large homeless population of more than 6,000 people.

I think it is ok to be homeless. By chance, I won the evolutionary lottery and was born in a developed country with the mental capabilities and emotional temperament that make it pretty easy for me to find work and hold down a steady job. A few thousand years ago, practically everyone was homeless. Some people might still like it that way, and that is ok with me. (Digging through a trash can is like hunting for berries in a forest). That said, it is not acceptable to leave children on the streets.

Even though I think it is ok, I am pretty uncomfortable when I see a homeless person because I start debating whether or not to give a him a few dollars. Writing a check once a year to a homeless shelter or innovative initiative will not make me feel better when I see someone on the street.

Some ideas that I have heard that I like are

  • In the summer, carry unopened bottled water and give that out.
    But, water is heavy.
  • Give out day old (or week old) bread from restaurants or grocery stores.
    Same problem as water, this is heavy and bulky.
  • Pass out information about local shelters and resources.
    This is not a good fit for me — I would like to do something more direct.

My current idea is to give out McDonald’s gift certificates in small denominations.

  • McDonalds is everywhere, so it is likely that the certificates can be spent easily.
  • A few dollars at McDonalds buys a lot of food — certainly not the healthiest, but enough to fill a hungry belly.
  • McDonalds is safe, clean, and climate controlled (warm in winter, cool in summer), and if you buy something you can use the bathroom.
  • The money cannot be directly spent on beer/liquor (though who am I to judge, maybe a beer would be better than a salad or sandwich).

What do you think? What do you do when you see a homeless person?

I’ll keep you posted and let you know how this goes.

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