I gave 2% of my 2015 salary to nonprofits with missions I support

Young people today are participating in philanthropy differently than generations of the past. It’s social, extra-curricular (not part of corporate programs) and widespread. That’s something with which I identify.

During the last few years, as I’ve transitioned from relatively struggling young freelance reporter to more financially stable, (relatively) young professional, I’ve tried to find my own pathway to giving. I’ve joined a pair of nonprofit boards (and an association), I donate blood (travel this year made me ineligible again) and occasionally donate my time (though that’s been lagging).

Starting in 2013, I started to be more strategic in my monetary contributions to causes I care about — setting a goal to encourage action on my part.

  • In 2013, I gave a few hundred dollars to a few groups, what amounted to about a half a percent of my earned income.
  • In 2014, I was clearer: I sought to give one percent of my annualized salary to charity, a goal I met.
  • This year, after a final round of year-end contributions, I exceeded my goal in giving two percent of my salary to several organizations.

I have a small spreadsheet (yes!) where I keep lots of my financial information (freelance income, tax write-offs and my donations), and there I track my giving to nonprofits. Some of that happens throughout the year when I’m asked by someone, but for now, I try to do most of that at the year-end so I can prioritize my interests. The spreadsheet and a percentage goal helps me set expectations and control what I say yes and no to — after making a few donations, many more have come.

In another post, I’d love to share to what I contributed, but they range — from a regional food bank (emergency social services) to a global sustainable agriculture NGO to public media.

I am not a particularly highly compensated individual, even as the founder of a small business — since it’s a fledgling local media publisher. But I am certainly privileged in a global, national or even local sense. So I want to give to causes that matter to me and hope to grow my support if I can.

That’s why I particularly like the model of setting a percentage goal to your giving. If you make $30,000, donating $300 would be meet the one percent threshold. If you make $50,000, it’d be $500 — $750 at $75,000. The concept has scale, and, in truth, isn’t very much — maybe skipping a handful of dinners out during a calendar year.

I hope to continue to develop the strategy, but I’m proud of the start here. I’d love to hear about how other people approach their giving, and if you aren’t already, I’d love to hear if this encouraged you to start.