MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 20-Sep-16 16:31:39

Guest post: "We donate up to half our income - it's not just billionaires who can be philanthropists"

Julia Wise says making giving a major part of her family's budget has meant keeping their needs small - but she wouldn't spend the money any other way

Julia Wise

Giving Gladly

Posted on: Tue 20-Sep-16 16:31:39

(57 comments )

Lead photo

"We don't want to give to just anywhere that sounds like a good cause - we want to get the most for our money."

When my husband and I work out our household budget each year, one of our numbers looks different to most people's. That's because we've pledged to give at least 10% of our income to the best charities we can find. Most years we give more like half.

As a child, I was struck by how unfair it was that some people didn't have their basic needs met, and I wanted to do my part to change this. When Jeff and I met at university, we knew we wanted giving to be an important part of our lives together. We've intentionally kept our spending low, even as our income has grown, so we're able to give. We don't think money is the only way to help, but it seemed like a good starting point to us.

Of course, things were simpler before we had two children in two years. But even after the arrival of our daughters, we've found that we've been able to stick to our giving plan. We knew childcare would be our biggest expense, so we saved in advance for these first few years when care is most expensive. And we've tried to keep our tastes simple, buying clothes at charity shops and visiting family rather than hotels for holidays.

It helps that we don't feel alone. In the early days, we didn't know anyone else who made giving a major part of their budget. Then we discovered Giving What We Can, a community of those who choose to give at least 10%. We've been happy to find friends there (including other parents) who also want to use their money to leave the world better than they found it. We're glad it's not just billionaires who can be philanthropists, but nurses, teachers, engineers, and civil servants.

People sometimes ask what our children will think of our lifestyle as they get older, and whether we'll encourage them to adopt it too. We don't want to push them too hard and make them tight-fisted as a way of rebelling. We want them to see sharing as a normal part of life. Giving has brought us great satisfaction, and we hope they'll see that and be shaped by it.


People sometimes ask what our children will think of our lifestyle as they get older, and whether we'll encourage them to adopt it too. We don't want to push them too hard and make them tight-fisted as a way of rebelling. We want them to see sharing as a normal part of life. Giving has brought us great satisfaction, and we hope they'll see that and be shaped by it.

The research on what makes people happy points to personality, health, and social relationships as the biggest factors. Beyond a certain point, money doesn't do much to give you more satisfaction. So we try to prioritise relationships with family and friends rather than acquiring more stuff. We hope that by keeping our family's needs small, we'll help our children learn what's actually important.

Over the years, we've put more attention into where we give, and not just how much. We don't want to give to just anywhere that sounds like a good cause - we want to get the most for our money. So we try to find the most effective charities we can.

We've found the recommendations of the charity evaluator GiveWell incredibly helpful (we've been fans of theirs for years, and since last year I've been volunteering as a board member.) They're very picky about what they recommend, combing through different interventions and organisations to find the ones that have the best evidence behind their work. Much better than the days when I chose charities more or less at random, hoping they were good!

GiveWell's top recommendation is the Against Malaria Foundation, which provides mosquito nets in places where the disease is common, and we've been happy to donate there. Malaria primarily affects young children, and it's one of the world's top killers of children and pregnant women.

I can barely think about what it would be like for our family to lose one of our daughters, or to have lost me while I was pregnant. It horrifies me to know that this happens to families every day, and that it could be prevented by something as simple as mosquito nets.

I love knowing that my family can help other parents keep their children healthy. There's nothing else I'd rather do with the money. There's nothing we could buy ourselves that would mean as much as this.

By Julia Wise

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AppleAndBlackberry Tue 20-Sep-16 18:11:39

We give away around 15%, more some years, but it's really inspiring to read your story. I think DH would definitely like to give more but I find it difficult when we have a large mortgage and small savings. One of my favourite charities is Mary's Meals. IIRC they use at least 93% of the amount donated directly for feeding children.

Mycatsabastard Tue 20-Sep-16 19:09:53

What a lovely post!!

Myredrose Tue 20-Sep-16 19:38:02

I am interested as to why you think your household budget is different to most people's because you give to charity and what you base that assumption on?

We don't give a set percentage but I have just gone back over our last five year donations and its above 10%. Our business also donated once it was in profit.

Happily, I think it's more common than you think, it's just not something that I ever discuss in RL.

These charities have to be kept going somehow.

hmmmum Tue 20-Sep-16 19:39:51

Love this. It's very satisfying giving money where it's needed and will be well spent

Mycatsabastard Tue 20-Sep-16 19:59:21

myred I know an awful lot of people who don't give to charity and in fact think donating on a regular basis or even a one off is not down to them. It should be the government, I pay my taxes - that kind of attitude. I've also heard comments about how the government will give all our money to other countries but won't help our own.

So no I don't think most people donate 10%. I certainly don't as I can't afford to regularly. However I do donate a small amount every month to a chosen charity and regularly donate one off payments to various charities, particularly friends who are doing a sponsored event and it helps them reach a target.

It's a very personal thing. Most of my chosen charities are aimed at seriously ill children, children with lifelong disabilities and sadly, children's hospices who provide the respite needed for those children.

ThisUsernameIsAvailab1e Tue 20-Sep-16 20:05:40

This is all lovely if you can afford it.

vickyors Tue 20-Sep-16 20:36:35

We give more than 10% away to a couple of charities we've chosen, and it's a choice we make. Sometimes I struggle with it, but in reality, we are so wealthy compared with so many in the world, and I'm constantly challenged about that. I am naturally greedy, and I want, in many ways, to keep our money to ourselves. But I'm glad we do give. And we manage. And no, we aren't billionaires. My husband is a house husband for our two little ones, and I'm a teacher.

SciFiFan2015 Tue 20-Sep-16 20:42:17

Philanthropy (from Greek φιλανθρωπία) means etymologically, the love of humanity, in the sense of caring, nourishing, developing, and enhancing what it means to be human.

Anyone can be a philanthropist. It doesn't have to be about money. Give time, talent, blood? You're a philanthropist.

Money gifts are amazing, everyone can do something.

Thanks to all who donate, in all ways.

HandmaidsTail Tue 20-Sep-16 21:39:01

Just want to endorse what a PP said about Mary's Meals. I've done some work with them and they're flipping amazing, and really focused on making sure that almost all of the donated money goes where it's needed most.

Well done OP, how inspiring!

Tiggeryoubastard Wed 21-Sep-16 00:14:11

It would be interesting to know what your income is, how much you spend on housing.

BeingATwatItsABingThing Wed 21-Sep-16 05:09:44

Obviously this is a lovely thing to do but I think this post could potentially make people who genuinely can't afford it feel bad for not being able to give.

I also believe that charity isn't for personal gain. When I do a "good deed", I don't tell anyone about it. It's not a point for discussion because the reason I do it is not for recognition but to help someone who really desperately needs it.

isthistoonosy Wed 21-Sep-16 05:29:43

I'd like to see your budget too and hoe you live cheaply while ensuring you won't require charity in the future. (emergency money, pensions etc)

Myredrose Wed 21-Sep-16 06:47:04

I am sure you do mycatisabastard, it's not statistically going to hold up though.

I asked why the author made the assumption that most people don't give to charity.

As I said, I never discuss it in RL, I don't want a pat on the back for it either.

slightlypeevedwombat Wed 21-Sep-16 07:04:48

talking about giving probably generates more money than silently giving? how many times do we hear of celebrities giving x amount and think hmm they could give more than that - but in reality they are raising the profile of the charity

WipsGlitter Wed 21-Sep-16 07:11:53

This is interesting if maybe a wee bit smug.

I agree to would be interesting to see your overall income / expenditure. If, for example, you have no mortgage because of an inheritance then...

Thanks for the links though.

FoggyMorn Wed 21-Sep-16 07:27:35

Thistoonosy, pensions are not charity!

We donate to two charities, one to do with water and sanitation provision, and one to do with information provision, and make one of payments to others when we want too. BUT with 4 kids we'd never make the commitment to reshuffle our lifestyle/housing/savings priorities to donate more. Our kids are our first priority.

Each to their own tho OP.

catonlap Wed 21-Sep-16 07:49:34

Foggy I don't think isthistoonosey was saying pension is charity. I think was asking if they have pension and emergency fund in their budget too. Suggesting that if not then could they need charity themselves if circumstances changed? That is how I read it anyway.

BombadierFritz Wed 21-Sep-16 08:55:03

the poor give more than the rich as a percentage of their income. we should be asking why the rich give less

www.thirdsector.co.uk/poorest-people-give-highest-proportion-income-charity-says-study/fundraising/article/1176810

BombadierFritz Wed 21-Sep-16 09:02:53

actually, I have quickly googled them. they live in the usa, used to live in a house owned by their parents, and earn in the top 10%. i'll put some links, might be a year ir two out of date but gives a flavour. charitable donations are tax deductable as well.
www.givinggladly.com/2013/06/whats-it-like-to-give-half.html?m=1
www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3268936/Massachusetts-couple-lives-six-percent-income-away-100-000-year-needs-most.html
they should still be lauded of course but this is the perspective for those feeling bad for not donating more but who are on very low salaries

Collarsandcutoffs Wed 21-Sep-16 09:48:11

This is an odd post. Are we meant to applaud you for shopping in charity shops? Plenty of people do that. And I suspect many quietly give at least what you do without the fanfare.
Each to their own OP but this is a strange post that is unlikely to make anyone else give if they aren't doing already.

icouldabeenacontender Wed 21-Sep-16 09:59:56

It does come across as smug tbh.
I really love sciFIFan's post.

Hygellig Wed 21-Sep-16 10:04:38

This makes me feel rather stingy given that DH and I thought we should aim to donate 1% of our net annual income to charity (including all the money spent at the school fair to help the PTA and sponsoring people).

We have a monthly direct debit to the county wildlife trust and a couple of other charities, and have made some one-off donations to the DEC emergency appeals. The trouble is that there are so many different worthy causes to support.

If they are in the US I presume they will also need to save a lot to pay for their daughters' college education and possibly health care.

WittyPutDown Wed 21-Sep-16 10:14:04

I think it's an odd post too. I'm not sure why. I think it's great that you prioritize charitable giving a and that you give it a lot of thought. I don't think you should give so much that you leave yourself short though. Iyswim.

We have slowly been reducing the amount of money we give to charity as I keep getting more and more pissed off with charitable organizations. I feel much happier giving my time rather than my money nowadays. I've consistently given 1/2 a day or a day a week of my time so that the equivalent of 10 to 20% of my salary... sort of wink

Where I volunteer there are plenty of volunteers who volunteer 4 or 5 days a week doing low key but essential work. Some of them have been doing it for 20 or 30 years. I think they are amazing but I don't think they get the recognition that the big money donators get. I don't think they mind though.

I love the fact that the UK has a culture of charitable giving - it's not the same in a lot of other countries.

WittyPutDown Wed 21-Sep-16 10:21:11

Just seen the other posts and that you live in the US. I used to live there and found that the attitude to charity had quite a different vibe than in the UK.

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