Each year I give one-percent of gross revenues to nonprofit charities. I like to give what I call the first one-percent to charity, not a percent of what’s left over after expenses.
This is because my company operates in a community where many supports allow me to be successful. A healthy environment and healthy people are foundational for the success of my business, not an afterthought. My community is the ground on which my company stands. I’m happy to take 1% right off the top and give it to charities in my community. I wish every company did that.
All of us are forced to give to our communities through taxes. Most tax money goes to buy stuff to help the government run, but some gets sent back out into communities to help the more needy among us. Think funding for public education, public housing, food assistance, health care, transportation subsidies, and in many other ways.
I actually like paying taxes with the thought that the money is helping my community. I’m one of those weirdos who pays taxes joyfully. It’s a way to help the team.
When I hear people complain against paying taxes the argument sometimes goes something like this. ”I believe in helping people in need, I just don’t think the government should decide where my money goes. I would rather give my money to charities directly.” Okay, anyone who’s ever said that, I hope you are giving your money to charities directly.
If I believe that society should help people in need and if I believe it’s not the government’s responsibility to help people in need, then whose is it?
It used to be that churches took care of the poor and needy. An alternative model was “we take care of our own.” I heard this one a lot in Make Shift Coffee House conversations; legendary stories of extended family pitching in to help someone on hard times, or stories of taking relatives in and caring for them at home.
Today churches are far less prominent in most of American society and far less able to provide social services like they used to. Families don’t take care of their own elderly and sick like they used to. And many government programs are simply inadequate to the task of providing what’s needed.
There is a dire need right now for social services and for environmental protection. I can lobby my government to spend tax dollars on those things but I can also give money myself. Directly. With no government middle man. And when I give to a charity I am making an independent decision and I am participating in a free market. If I think nonprofits should do more and government less, when I give to charity I’m putting my money where my mouth is.
I know, not everyone can write checks so easily and joyfully, no matter how much you might believe in a charitable cause. If you can’t afford shoes you’re not sending money to your local land trust. I’m naming that I’m privileged and that charitable giving isn’t for everyone. Yet a mindset of gratitude for one’s community and one’s environment IS available to everyone; and so is a willingness to give to our communities however we can.
And those of us who can give money to charity, no matter how much, let’s do it.