Tag: donations

“Giving Tuesday” Morning Quarterback

Graduates of my alma mater must, be far more successful than I am. At least, I assume this is so from the 4 emails I got from my former college yesterday asking for money. These were not messages asking for $5, $10, or even $50 donation. These were bold requests. One message told me that two alumni (class of ’70 and ’88) pledged $7,500, inferring that perhaps I should follow their example. Of course, if that seemed too steep, another message told me that by making a gift of $2,000 or more I could get some exclusive swag. I suppose “gift” sounds better than “donation.” It seems to me that $2,000 I have today is better invested now, so that when my own kids head off to college, the money will (hopefully) pay for one semester’s worth of text books.

I have given money to my alma mater in the past, before I had kids, but they have to know what it costs to raise a family these days. A university’s development office probably has good metrics on what people give based on all kinds of criteria. This is what puzzles me about my alma mater‘s messages: are their graduates so successful that a $7,500 donation (or a $2,000 gift) is a drop in the hat? Then, too, with what a college education costs these days, it isn’t clear to me why a university needs funding above and beyond what they get from tuition. Of course, there is always a need for more money, but I haven’t seen this explained well by the universities. No one I know has put out a “giving guide” with the line, “With the high cost of tuitions, why are donations necessary?” and then gone on to give a reasonable explanation. I wonder how many people donating $2,000 are still saddled with student loan debt?

My alma mater was not the only institution requesting donations from me yesterday. It was “Giving Tuesday” so everyone had their hand out. I had requests from hospitals, museums, shelters, and my kids’ soccer league. It seems poor planning that “Giving Tuesday” comes right on the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For one thing, everyone is asking for money all at once, so they are competing against one another. For another, who has the money to spend after those holiday weekend shopping sprees? Perhaps integrating the giving with the shopping deals would be a better approach: “Get 25% off all purchases, and we’ll donate 5% of the proceed to _____.” People would complain about this because the business, not the consumer, would get the tax write-off. Charity should not be about tax write-offs. Then, too, some families look closely at how much we can give and where we want to make those donations as part of our annual household budgeting. By the time Giving Tuesday comes around, all of those funds have already been earmarked or donated.

Many charitable organizations offer various incentives for donations. I wish they didn’t. Or at least, I wish they didn’t have to. I made a donation to one charity a few months back because they sent me some address labels. I felt bad that they had spent the money on the address labels, but it turned out that I needed new address labels since we moved into the new house. My donation put me on a list of people who responded with cash and now it seems that every other week I received more labels from them. I wish they’d spend the money I gave them on things other than labels.

One offer from my alma mater gave me the opportunity to have my name engraved on a brick on a new building they were constructing with the donated funds. I believe that charity should be mostly anonymous. People should donate out of a sense of charity, not to advertise their generosity. This phenomenon reaches the peak of absurdity at fund-raising events for my kids’ school, which seem to be arranged so that parents openly compete with one another one-upping their “generosity.” That’s not what charity is about. Whenever possible, I make my donations anonymously.

I’m always impressed when I read about multi-million dollar donations made by an anonymous donor, but always disappointed that the recipient doesn’t name the building constructed with the funds the “Anon Library and Study Hall.”

More and more, I’ve noticed that charitable institutions use tactics similar to what hackers use to get information from people–what is sometimes referred to as social engineering. They creation a false sense of urgency by limiting the time you have to make a contribution (“We want to meet our goal of raising $25,000 on Giving Tuesday”), and raising the stakes. Almost no one is better at this than local public television and radio. I’m not much of a television watcher, and I listen to the radio not at all, but I must get a dozen letters a year from our local public television and radio each of which is a desperate plea for funds, and each of which carries the dire warning that the television/radio cannot survive much longer without these funds. While I don’t make use of their services, I know of their value to the community. Still, I’m skeptical. I have been getting these letters for seventeen years now, each one a dire plea for survival, and yet, 17 years later, the broadcasts continue.

I’ve always found it a bit odd that a person forms such a strong bond to their alma mater that, decades later, they are still willing to donate money to them. I got a good education from my school, but it was four years of my life, and I paid for it already. In full. With some interest. Isn’t that enough?

Pre-Halloween vampires

The pre-Halloween vampires were out in force today, collecting blood.  I was one of their victims.  I donated blood for the third time, but it still managed to be a "first".  Given my height, weight, and blood type, I am considered a good candidate for apheresis, which I agreed to.  I takes longer, but they can get 2 units of blood that way.  I was a little nervous about it, but it went mostly well.  I say "mostly" because after the first unit was taken and the blood had been separated, the plasma wouldn’t go back into my vein.  Instead, it seemed to want to go into the surrounding tissue, which made my arm puff up a bit.  They couldn’t get my vein to take it no matter what so we had to give up after just one unit.  I felt bad about that, but the truth is, I’d gotten light-headed and cold and I really wanted to be done anyway.

I had soda and water and juice and cookies afterward and I am warming up now.  Oh, and the other advantage to apheresis is that I can’t donate blood again until February–nearly twice as long as when donating whole blood.  So I have a while before I have to go through this again.

I desperately want an Obama victory…but at what cost?

I just got a call from the Obama for America campaign.  They were looking for donations for their Get Out the Vote effort.  I gave money during the primary, and today, I gave money to the campaign itself.  I was happy to do so.

However, I’ve got to say that I was rather surprised by how the phone person ripped and ragged on Republicans.  She spoke of Republicans as "them" and not in a good way.  It brought to mind references to "We don’t take their kind here."  Now, I’m a life-long Democrat, but I don’t think Republicans are evil.  I don’t believe they are trying to destroy the world.  We may have differing view points, but it’s no different then having a difference of opinion with your friend or your sibling.  You certainly don’t hate because of a difference of opinion (in most cases).  I was pretty disturbed and I wonder whether the Big Wigs in the Obama for America campaign are aware this is going on.  I’d be really surprised if they were okay with it.

The other thing she did was use mild scare tactics.  I laughed at these, but after I’d made my donation, and after she’d gone through her schpeal, and was telling me to help someone to the polls on election day who would other wise have trouble getting there, she concluded by saying, "Oh, and if see any Republicans on the way, try and hit a puddle and soak them all so that they melt."

I’m desperately hoping Obama wins this election.  But does it have to be so dirty?

Productive Saturday

We got off to a productive start to our day. First, we headed over to the bank, hauling a bunch of change that I had collected. We used the change machine and when all was said and done, we got more than $160 for the change. After that, we headed to Goodwill where we dropped up a bunch of stuff that we were donating to charity. From there we headed to the Pentagon City Mall where I got some new gym socks and new gym shorts (and where I also picked up my gym back and dirty gym clothes which I accidentally left at work over the weekend.)

Having been productive, we headed back to Kelly’s and then walked up the street to Baja Fresh, where we had lunch. We went back to Kelly’s and lazed around for a while, napping and finally collected the rest of the laundry and both headed to my house (in separate cars).

Kelly started laundry and then we headed up to Greenbelt to walk around the lake. From there, we headed over to Prince George’s Plaza and caught the 7:30 PM showing of Hancock, which turned out to be a fun movie that we both enjoyed (despite the mixed reviews that it received). When the movie was over, we headed to the Outback for a late (for us) dinner, and finally back home.

I have an Orioles game tomorrow.

Reading is fundamental

Each year, my company does it’s annual campaign for giving, where it encourages employees to make donations through a variety of charities. I usually have my own list that I work off of each year, many of which I have previously noted. However, this year, since I am trying to increase the amount in which I give, I signed up for the annual giving campaign. I enrolled in a payroll deduction contribution for “Reading is Fundamental“. Each paycheck, $10 is deducted to go to this great reading program. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to $260/year. Maybe next year it can be even more.

Incidentally, there was an option to make the donation in memorium and so this particular donation is in memory of my grandparents, Paul and Fawn Friedlander.

O Positive

Recall that about a month ago, I donated blood for the first time. The other day, I got my Red Cross Blood Donor card in the mail. I assume, since they gave me a card, that means that all of the various tests performed on my blood were negative, that I have no diseases of any kind, and that my blood is quite wholesome.

I also learned my blood type, which for some reason, I never knew before.

I’m O Positive.

The letter that I received along with my card told me that O Positive is a special blood type because so many people need blood, they can’t always type them and type-O blood can be given to just about anyone. While flattering, this isn’t quote true. Rh-factor plays a role, and I believe that O Negative is in higher demand than O Positive.

I think it’s kind of silly to flatter someone by telling them their blood is particularly valuable. All blood is valuable in some way or other and to say that one is more valuable than another sets up a kind of artificiality that we don’t need in this day and age.

Incidentally, I can donate blood up to six times a year, which, I am told can save a total of 18 lives. I’m not sure I could handle donating so frequently, but imagine those people who do donate blood six time a year, year in and year out. Over the course of a decade they’ve saved 180 lives. Now that is something to be proud of.

Friday morning

I’m so glad it’s Friday. This has been a long week. I’ve put in some extra time at work this week and I’m ready for the weekend. Also, we may even get some rain today. It has been unseasonably warm here the last couple of days and a little rain would be a pleasant change.

I signed up to donate blood this morning, so I’ve got that coming up in about 2 hours. I’ve never donated blood before, so this will be a first for me. I’ve had blood drawn plenty of times and it’s never bothered me, but never in large amounts so it will be interesting to see if I feel dizzy afterward. Apparently, they give all kinds of sweet snacks after the fact. I’ll report on the experience later on.

Pay day today, too, which is always nice.

Graduation donation

I graduated from University of California, Riverside 13 years ago today. I have only the vaguest memories of my graduation ceremony, but I do remember how hot it was. (In fact, the graduation scene at the opening of my soon-to-be-appearing story “When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer” comes from memories of my own graduation.)

A few months back, I mentioned that my June/July donation would be a combined donation to UCR. Since it is close to July and since today marks a nice anniversary date, I am preparing to send the donation out today. I’m giving my school $400 this year. I’m directing that $300 of it go to the Creative Writing department and that $100 go to the Political Science department. Granted, I was a political science major and a creative writing minor, it is the creative writing part of my work that I am most proud of at this point and I probably would have given up on it were it not for the encouragement of some of the professors in that department.

This brings my total donations for the first half of 2007 to $1,165, which is not as much as I wish it could be, but is still better than what I did last year.

May donation

April’s donation went to the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debates. I just put the May donation in the mail: $200 to AOPA’s Air Safety Foundation, an organization dedicated to making flying safer for general aviation pilots. In the past, I’ve given them $100/year, but I decided to double it this year because general aviation has been struggling under potential user fees, not to mention the media scrutiny after accidents like Corey Lidle’s crash last October.

Next on the list, for the month of July* is the University of California, Riverside‘s creative writing and political science departments.

* What happened to June? This year, I have budgeted $200/month for charitable donations. But I don’t necessarily send out $200 donations to 12 different organizations each year. I am planning on sending $400 to UCR ($300 to creative writing and $100 to political science) and that $400 comes from the June/July budget.

Giving something back

Within the midst of all of this excitement, what with the sale of my story and the science fiction conventions and all, it is probably now the best time to give something back. I mentioned in an earlier post my intention to make a larger than normal donation to the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debates. This evening, I made out the check and sent off the following letter to the American Museum of Natural History’s Planned Giving Office:

To Whom It May Concern:

Enclosed is a check for $565.00 as a donation to the Isaac Asimov Memorial Fund, which sponsors the Isaac Asimov Memorial Panel Debate at the Hayden Planetarium.

While I still haven’t had a chance to attend the lectures (scheduling conflicts!), I fully support the goals of these debates. I am so glad to see that there is an ongoing, education project worthy of Isaac Asimov’s name.

I got the basics of science in school, but it was Isaac Asimov who taught me the details and history of science through scores of his nonfiction books. This donation is a small token of my gratitude for a debt that I can never fully repay.

What I failed to mention is that through his fiction and nonfiction writings, Isaac also taught me how to write and I am certain that without his example as a science fiction writer, without having read and devoured his stories, without having learned from his rationality and clarity of thought, I would never have had a chance at writing a story of my own good enough for publication.

2006 Taxes and 2007 Donations

My taxes are all done for 2006 and are being filed electronically as I write this. I predicted owing about $3,000, and as it turns out, the situation was a little better than that.

I owe $2,693 in federal taxes (and a $65 penalty for withholding too little throughout the year). That comes to a total of $2,760 or $240 less than I thought I would owe. Furthermore, I am getting a refund of $325 from the state of Maryland, which, of course I will contribute to the payment of my federal taxes. This brings my tax bill for 2006 to a grand total of $2,435, or $565 less than what I had budgeted.

Seeing as how the money was already budgeted, the $565 that I am saving on taxes is going toward my 2007 charitable contributions. I was getting ready to send a check to the annual Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate fund at the Hayden Planetarium. I normally send $250 each year, but I was lax last year. Therefore, I am contributing the full $565 to the fund this year. As this money was not in my donations budget, it means bigger donations for those remaining places to which I donate because I have some extra money to spread among them.

Incidentally, my new tax prepared workout out just great!