Friday, April 28, 2006

how charitable are we?

A couple of items about charity have come under my radar this week, so I thought I'd pass them along.

First, this quiz on Beliefnet.com, on how much your sense of charity affects your daily life. It covers everything from how you handle requests from homeless people on the street to your general attitude toward volunteer work.

Second, a report showing the average federal income tax deductions for charity in tax year 2004 for different income brackets:

$30,000 - $50,000: $2,132
$50,000 - $100,000: $2,663
$100,000 - $200,000: $4,130
$200,000-plus: $19,014

(From RIA, a division of Thomson Corp., as listed in Tom Herman’s April 19 Wall Street Journal column.)
Both these things beg the question: How do we stack up? (And by "we," I don't just mean Steve and me; I mean you, me, our families, our friends, the people at our churches, the people in our neighborhoods.) As for the Beliefnet quiz, I scored a 22 on a scale of 0 to 36 - definitely not the selfless giver that the top scorers are, but not a Scrooge, either:
Your sense of charity and social justice is very tied to your faith. Your charitable actions spring from both your strong sense of compassion and your religious obligations. You look toward religious leaders for guidance in where to contribute and likely participate in church or house of worship fundraisers and volunteer activities.
Sounds pretty close. I'm wouldn't say Steve and I look to religious leaders for specific guidance on where to contribute, but it's true that our choices to do volunteer work and donate money stem from a desire and sense of obligation to look out for the least among us. That lines up in large part with the social teachings of our faith.

As for charitable donations, I'm really not one to talk about how much money Steve and I give away. We do take our giving seriously. We allocate a certain percentage of our take-home pay for donations, and every December or January, we sit in front of the laptop and divvy up how much money we want to give in the next year to the various charities and nonprofits we support. It's actually kind of fun, and very rewarding, and it makes writing the checks less painful because they're planned. (It also makes it easier to say no when random donation-seekers coming calling.) I am looking forward to getting our kids in on the action. I hope they'll get excited about charities they want to include on our list, and I want to encourage them to save part of their allowance to give away. (On the other hand, I can hear it now: "But Mom! I wanted to buy an XBox!")

I also think it's interesting that people in the lowest income bracket actually donate (or at least claim to on their taxes) a higher percentage of their income than people in the next two higher brackets, who pretty much comprise the middle class. What does that say?

7 comments:

Ray Mikell said...

Do the charitable donations figures include tithing to churches? The lower-income neighborhood I studied in Mobile for my diss. had 4,500 residents and 27 churches! Methinks that's probably your best explanation.

Meanwhile, I think I need to get rid of the robot. You think?

Cynthia said...

This may be inapproperiate to ask this question here, but how do you get links to appear within an entry? Like in your entry about your spirituality, if I just clicked on the word, it takes me to a previous post. How do you do that?

Cynthia said...

Hello Ray,
We've never met, but I think you may be a former DDT reporter that Emilie has mentioned on occasions.
Do you still live in Mobile, Ala.?
If so, another former DDT alum, Coustaur Taylor, lives there too. He worked at the DDT from 1998-2000.
Just thought I would share.
Emilie, look at the power of your blog.

Emilie said...

Cynthia - I will e-mail you in a bit to show you how to link to URLs. It's either easy or a pain, depending on whether you have a Mac or a PC. :-)

Ray Mikell said...

Cynthia: Yes, that's me, former DDT reporter person. Anyway, I live in Augusta GA now, and have for almost two years now. I don't know how much longer--could be another year, might not. I should know by the end of June, and hopefully sooner.

Anyway, I can write you about all this later, after things settle a bit. Also, it's Emilie's blog here!

Emilie said...

Ah, talk away ... I'm happy to see new comments, even if they aren't for me! ;-)

Ray - that's an interesting theory ... are you thinking that maybe lower-income people are more diligent about donating to their churches?

Ray Mikell said...

Oh, mine was only anectodal (although based on other anectodal evidence) I suspect that religion becomes more important to lower-income people. But I don't know that.

In hindsight, however, the better explanation for the disparity reported here might be rates of reporting. You don't *have* to itemize deductions. Then if you don't reach a certain level of giving, you are more likely to take the standardized deduction. People who don't have much to give are not likely to reach that threshold.