The Charity Challenge (Part I)


So there I was cruising the silent auction at the big gala to celebrate and raise money for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Finally, a piece of art that actually, pardon the cliche, talked to me. At last, I would have some cool art on the blank space in my new living room. As I continued playing a game of silent auction leapfrog with two other bidders, I realized I was no longer the financial planner who helps clients to reach their goals using a disciplined system for saving and spending. I was now the irrational “got-to-have-it” shopper. And then it hit me. I’d reviewed my charitable spending intentions for 2011 two weeks prior, and remembered that I had a lot more room to give for this year. Call it rationalizing if you will, but 100% of my art purchase would help people in need. Despite spending nearly twice as much as my initial bid, I have zero buyer’s remorse – in fact quite the opposite. Every time I see the art on my wall, I’m reminded of where my dollars went, not how much I spent.

The gay and lesbian community is no stranger to giving. With our typically higher disposable incomes (kids are expensive, and most of us don’t have them), and our experiences with discrimination and loss (AIDS), there is a greater tendency by our community to help the less fortunate. For many of us, our charities are our kids, and it gives us a sense of purpose. But I’ve always struggled with the idea of “how much is enough?”

I then remembered It’s Not About the Money, a fantastic book written by my colleague Brent Kessel. He shares his formula for charitable giving; he gives 1% of his net worth, or 10% of his income, whichever is greater. The OCD side of me thrilled at the idea of having a system in place for giving, so I follow a similar model to Brent’s. Giving feels so much better as a result, as I no longer feel obligated when I give, or sad when I don’t. Create any variation you like with Brent’s formula (perhaps it’s less than 10% of your income if you are donating a great deal of time and energy to your favorite cause), but putting your intentions down on paper, and reviewing it every few months, is likely to make the whole giving experience much more fulfilling. It’s done exactly that for me.

Part II: The Charity Challenge