There are plenty of reasons. Some of them come from self-interest. Some rise up from caring about the world around us. With a difficult economy making everyone’s budget tighter, charities are having a tough time, and many of us are having a tough time justifying charitable donations made from increasingly small checking accounts.
But even with our own reduced means, there are still plenty of reasons to donate.
1) Tax Deductions
This goes under the “self-interest” column of reasons to give, but it is still a great reason. Especially if you are in a higher tax bracket. Charitable donations do require a few things to qualify as a tax deduction, but there are several articles on this website that will help you understand how to maximize your donation.
2) Donating is more time-effective than selling
I have thinned out my belongings a lot over the last year — a total of twenty-one trips to Goodwill. I have tried to sell what I could, both through garage sales, eBay, and listings on community boards. Having spent hours and hours and days and days at this, I can tell you I have actually done the math on donating versus selling. If you value your time, donating wins.
Here’s why. You will get 10% or less of the value of your belongings at a garage sale. That is an optimistic figure. It will also take you at least two full day’s of your time to organize and hold the garage sale. If you sell on eBay, you will spend at least a day taking photographs, writing descriptions, responding to questions, asking for payment, and then packaging and shipping whatever does sell (and you will typically lose money on the shipping). Then you will have to pay eBay’s fees, which are not small, and you will ultimately sell maybe 30% of what you list. And you have to pay for listings whether things sell or not.
If you donate, you can toss everything you’re ready to get rid of into your car and drive to the nearest Goodwill (there are thousands of them), where the staff will help you empty your car. They will give you a receipt and you can determine what the value of your tax deduction is. It should be realistic… about whatever you would get if you bought the items at a thrift store. One-third of that value can now be deducted from your tax bill if you are in the 30% tax bracket. And you’re done. The only follow up required is putting the donation receipt into your tax forms for when you do your taxes. If your time is worth any more than $10 an hour to you, this is the best way to go.
3) We are all in this together
This is still a self-interest reason, but it has a wider view. We are all affected by what happens in our communities, and in some way by what happens in the world at large. A horrible education system affects each small town because the graduates that stay have less earning power. On a wider level, it threatens our position as a world power, because how long can we lead the world when our children do not know where India is on a map, or how to read beyond a sixth-grade level. How can they vote effectively, if they do not have the ability to tell the true from the false of what politicians tell them?
Education is only one example of this, but it goes further… helping the homeless makes for better communities. Helping veterans shores up our commitment to our country. The examples go on and on. Whatever each of us can do, in whatever small way, to give back to others — whether they are our neighbors or across the ocean — makes for a better world. And we get to live in that better world.
4) God approves of donations
This will make some of you bristle, but it may also be the sole reason why others of you give. Every major religion – Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism – has practices and blessings for those who give to others. If you do not believe in God, you can also use a principle called Pascal’s Wager — that, all things being equal, it is more beneficial to believe in God than not to. Finally, please remember that you do not have to believe in a vengeful, angry, callous God. You can believe in a joyful, loving God. It’s your choice.
5) Giving builds self-esteem
It simply feels good to give. It makes us feel better about ourselves to know we tried to help someone. If you give on a regular basis, when you’re having a terrible day and you feel like a loser, if you can remember that you are supporting a cause, or being part of the solution, or helping to make the world a better place, it helps you get through the day.
Giving can get you through some pretty difficult stuff. For example, I had to declare bankruptcy last year. About a month before I filed, I took a leap of faith and decided to spend $28 a month from my less than $1200 a month income to sponsor a girl in the Philippines. Part of my motivation was reliant on “God” or the universe. I knew that the divine was not going to let this little girl down. I knew I was going to be okay so long as I trusted that. So I demonstrated my trust by supporting her, and the act of trusting every month — trusting that she was going to be okay, and that I was going to be okay — built up into a faith that I was going to be okay. The effect of believing you are going to be okay (maybe not comfortable, but okay) pushes back the fear. Keeping the fear in check enables you to keep taking the actions that will eventually get you out of the mess you’re in. Being able to push back the fear and do the next right thing has gotten people through cancer and wars, across deserts and oceans, and through hells far worse than any bankruptcy. If giving a little triggers that dynamic, it seems a cheap price to pay.