Giving Tuesday…

I’ve led what, for most purposes, has been a charmed life. Maybe not Gates Foundation or Ford Foundation charmed, but well enough for a kid from down the crick.

Since today is Giving Tuesday, another internet created special purpose day, I’m giving back in the way most likely to avoid requiring interaction with people – Sending cash.

This year, I’m throwing my support to these good causes:

As per usual, I’m focused in, mainly, on organizations that exist for the benefit of animals. I’m sure there are many, many wonder charities that do wonderful things for people… but people as a group are just awful, so animals it is.

Whatever your passion is, though, I hope you’ve found some way to give back today.

Giving Tuesday…

It’s Giving Tuesday and lest you be led to think that we here at Fortress Jeff are completely heartless bastards, here’s my list of organizations who made the cut for donations this year:

Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) – http://www.baltimoreanimalshelter.org

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) – http://www.ifaw.org

World Wildlife Fund – http://www.worldwildlife.org

Ducks Unlimited – http://www.ducks.org

Cecil County Animal Services wishlist

Sure, I could have sent cash to save starving people in war torn lands, but we all know I largely find people a far less sympathetic group than I do animals. After all, I’ve met lots of people who aren’t worth a bucket of spit, but I’ve almost never met an animal that didn’t make my life better just by being.

Fundraiser…

I was reading an article today. The subject of the article isn’t particularly important unless you have a particular interest in Antarctic tourism. It was well written, articulate, and humorous. This blogger was ticked off all the appropriate boxes for what make a post enjoyable reading.

As the author regales us with tails of expedition ships and Russian sailors, and researchers who seem ever so slightly “off,” there was a thought lurking in the back of my mind. I wondered who the hell has the time or money to take off on 38-day cruise to the bottom of the world just to have something to write about. The blog itself was a fairly run of the mill affair without many bells or whistles – the kind of think you build when you’re more interested in writing than working in web design.

The answer to most of my questions came when at the end of the post, when the author thanked all of his supporters for donating to his Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter. Sonofabitch. This guy was crowdsourcing his writing and travel habits by taking online donations. I didn’t know that was even a thing people did, but it is… and it’s apparently far more lucrative that selling short stories $.99 a copy on Amazon.

With trepidation in my heart I sought out the Kickstarter campaign for the blogger in question. I wish I would have let it go, because I can’t unsee what I saw. I’m never going to be able to forget that 900+ people donated a total of almost $38,000 to this heroic blogger to go out and play advanced tourist. I’m amazed and jealous and sunned all at the same time.

It’s given me more than a moment’s pause as I wonder how I can coax 900 people out of $42 a piece – or more importantly can I coax 3000 to donate that much. Is it possible that someone is out there now using Kickstarter as their primary source of income? If there is, can that person please give me a bit of “how to” coaching?

There’s a quiet little corner of beach on St. Thomas I think would make a great spot for writing. Send me there and I’ll tell you all about it.

I’d just waste the rest…

So last week Mark Zuckerberg promised to divest himself of 99% of his fortune over his lifetime. About 13 seconds later, the chattering class filled the internet with complaints that he wasn’t giving it away fast enough, or to the right causes, or that he was just structuring the donations to be a tax deduction.

Without coordinating with the founder of Facebook on where he stands on the issue, my initial response was 1) Who the hell empowered anyone to decide how fast someone should give away their own money; 2) You go ahead and pick your causes and I’ll pick mine; and 3) If you are going to give away the better part of $49 billion, you’d be absolutely insane not to plan for the tax consequences of doing so.

The super-wealthy in America have a long and noble tradition of charitable giving. The barons of the industrial age built libraries, universities, and other public institutions that still dot the country. While even in my wildest, most avaricious dreams I’m not in the company of a Rockefeller, a Carnegie, or a Zuckerberg, I pretty much want to be left alone when it comes to what I give and the causes I choose to support. In my case the causes tend to be local and animal focused almost exclusively – figuring that sick kids and the disease of the moment are always going to find reasonably strong support.

No matter how worthy your cause, telling people that they’re wrong for not donating exactly the way you do (or would) is a pretty ludicrous proposition. If you don’t like what Zuck is putting is cash behind and how it’s being structured, go on out and raise $49 billion of your own and give it away any damned way you’d like… and then remember not to claim any of it at tax time. Unless you’re planning on doing that, I’m not sure I even know what you’re talking about.

It might be helpful in this circumstance to just be glad that people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet are doing their bit. Under the same circumstances, I’m not at all sure I’d be able to restrain myself from spending half of it on gambling, alcohol, and wild women and then just plain wasting the rest.

With that in mind, my hat’s off to the lot of them.

Charity…

Every year, Uncle Sam sponsors the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the government’s officially sanctioned one-stop-shop for its personnel to donate to the cause of their choice through direct payroll deduction. Every year from Thanksgiving to New Years you’re inundated with emails, meetings, kick off events, more emails, and unofficial peer pressure to give, give, give. I’m told that it’s better now than it was “in the olden days,” when signing up was damned near compulsory (unofficially, of course).

We got a bulk email this afternoon thanking everyone for participating this year, but noting ominously that we had only achieved 72% of the stated local goal and that as a result babies would go hungry, kittens would be drowned, and veterans of the Spanish-American War wouldn’t get the recognition they so richly deserved. OK, maybe that wasn’t exactly what the email said, but taking a bit of artistic license, that’s what I read. At any rate, I could have done without the reminder that there was still time to dig a little deeper.

I don’t generally give to CFC, preferring to do my donating directly with the groups I’m interested in supporting rather than through a 3rd party. This year, though, even that didn’t happen. After three long years without a raise, losing 5% of last year’s salary to furlough days, and spending a week sitting home because of how “non-essential” I am, I opted out almost completely, shepherding my limited funds available in case they needed to be deployed much closer to home. If that sounds at all bitter and jaded, well there’s a good reason for that.

There are a lot of worthy causes out there, but when push comes to shove, I’m my own favorite cause… and when the elected powers that be continually tell federal employees that they’re a drain on society and busy themselves dinking with our pay and benefits at every opportunity, it’s a good assumption that I’m just not feeling the spirit of generosity. There’s just something about being kicked in the stones repeatedly that seems to not set one afire with the joy of “giving back.” In fact, to me the only surprise in this whole story is the CFC didn’t miss their mark by way more than 28%. If nothing else, it’s an excellent example of actions having consequences.