I like giving money to worthy charities, and my goal is to have an impact on the causes I support.
I also enjoy charitable activities because it’s one of the few areas in our lives where we really do have discretion and can pick and choose. Now, that may sound ridiculous. After all, like many of us, I had my choice of colleges to attend. And it was my option to pursue a Ph.D. in graduate school. My wife didn’t force me to marry her 55 years ago. It was my proposal.
Still, many of our decisions are dictated by our family backgrounds and obligations and the culture and economic atmosphere within which we live. When I first met my wife, we were both graduate students at Stanford, and I told her there were two things I’d never, never do — work in New York City and commute to work. Well, that was the start of a great forecasting career. I promptly took a job in Manhattan, and after two years in a New York apartment, we moved to the suburbs from which I commuted for 25 years.
Sure, I didn’t need to take that job in New York, but it handily beat the offers in the beautiful San Francisco Bay area. Certainly, we could have remained indefinitely in a New York apartment, but we couldn’t afford one big enough to have four children, and where would I have put my woodworking shop?
Nobody forced me at gunpoint to become a beekeeper, but my dwarf fruit trees at our New Jersey residence weren’t getting pollinated properly. So, when our third son did his senior year college thesis on honeybees, it didn’t take much encouragement for Steve and me to put in two hives — especially since he was the beekeeper when he lived at home and worked in New York after graduation. All I had to do was assist.
After he left for a job in Chicago, I didn’t need to accept the instant promotion to head beekeeper, but if I didn’t, what would I do with the 20 hives we’d accumulated by then? No one forced me to expand this ridiculously labor-intensive hobby to 100 hives, but I’ve certainly enjoyed creating new bee colonies and meeting the challenge of keeping alive and thriving these creatures, which are now beset by so many pests and diseases.
So much of life seems preordained or unfolds in ways that offer few truly independent decisions. And most of us, I suspect, really don’t want to make life-altering choices frequently.
But I really enjoy deciding where our charitable dollars go. We don’t look at philanthropy as the route to social advancement, so we can examine each candidate independently to see if it matches our fundamental beliefs. We can ask hard questions and if a particular charity doesn’t have acceptable answers or is evasive, there are plenty of others. Over the years, not surprisingly, our donation list has varied considerably as has the size of contributions to the charities we support continually.
Do the vast majority of donations go to the charity’s purposes or is it chewed up in overhead and gala expenses? Are the people running the charity credible, and do they have logical business plans for running their organization, raising the needed funds and measuring their success? Or is their attitude, give us your money and trust us, we know how to spend it? Do they take seriously our interests and suggestions as to how our donations might be used?
Do the fundraisers do their homework and figure out whether their charity may be of interest to us, or do they use a shotgun approach and contact legions in the hope that somebody out there loves them? Do volunteers who are casual acquaintances act like bosom buddies when they ask us to pay $1,000 per head to attend a dinner supporting a charity we’ve barely heard of? Or do they at least grease the ways by inviting us to be their guests?
Charities can do much to help mankind, and many do so in much more efficient and caring ways than the alternative, government programs. I enjoy supporting these worthy causes, but I also enjoy the freedom of deciding which ones are worthy of that support.
Project Apis m. meets my criteria, so I am delighted to support it.
Board of Directors