When I was little, giving Tzedakah was fairly straight forward. A portion of your allowance? Into the tzedakah box. Find a penny on the street? Into the tzedakah box it goes. Then once or twice a year, we’d dump all the money out onto the dining room table and count it up, lining up neat little stacks of pennies, and group nickels and dimes into dollars. We’d decide where to donate the funds, and sometimes my brother and I would just show up, parents in tow and cash in hand.
(I’d be remiss if I didn’t add, thanks Mom(!), for making Tzedakah something mandatory, reflexive, and lots of fun.)
Today, however, it’s not quite as simple. Sure, we still have Tzedakah boxes around the apartment that we fill with loose change. But the last time my husband and I made an actual plan for donating Tzedakah (something I’m embarrassed to admit we only did once, and not since I finished graduate school and got a job), it required multiple subway conversations, pro/con lists, and a Google spreadsheet. Admittedly, it did feel pretty great to make donations in excess of 18 or 36 dollars, and to be proactive about our giving, instead of just responding to appeals from friends and family (apparently we know a lot of people who do charity marathons/half-marathons/5Ks). But frankly, it was a lot of work, and the fact that we haven’t done it since, is a sign that maybe it is a bit too much work. For better or worse, we need something easier, or at least could use a bit more guidance.
So tell me, what do you do?
- Do you base your giving on the calendar year? The fiscal year? Center it around certain Jewish holidays?
- How do you decide what causes and organizations are worthy causes? Do you differentiate between Tzedakah (to causes that aid the poor and disenfranchised) and philanthropy (supporting other causes)? How do you balance between giving to Jewish and non-Jewish sources?
- How do you determine how much to give: ten percent? More? Less? Of all your income? Post-taxes? What’s left over after paying for groceries and housing?
- Do you have a process for making these decisions (I love checklists, so if you have one, tell me about it)? A ritual? Do your choices change every year or have you found some routine?