Do you give to Charity? Who gets your money? What's your Charity Plan?

What charities gets your attention, time, and money? 

We are constantly bombarded by people desiring our time and funds.  Charities seem to find us everywhere to tug at our man purse strings.   While at the grocery store check-out, at bars for some St. Patty's shamrock campaign, Sally Struthers popping onto your screen (when she's not getting an OUI in Maine), Sarah singing to the dogs if you can't turn the channel fast enough, on Facebook, and walking the streets, we are asked if we would like to donate.  How many crazy and off the wall GoFundMe posts have you seen this week alone?  How many times have you been asked to donate to AIDS Walks, stopped at Pride events, or had your niece or nephew drop off a flier to sell wrapping paper or magazines?  How do you decide who gets your money?

If you are like me, when someone pleads for a dollar here and there, they may get a quick yes and I move on, sometimes not even listening to their cause, but it's just quicker and easier to donate than to listen.  Due to my educational background and employment, I tend to give to schools and student organizations.  But sometimes tragedies occur and we are challenged with the question, "should I donate?"

Nepalese-American fashion designer Prabal Gurung has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help aid victims of the earthquake that took place in Nepal over the weekend. You can learn how to help donate here, where 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the cause. (HuffPost)

Like myself, Prabal has a personal tie to the most recent charity he is donating to this month.  Familial and National pride are driving him to support his homeland through this tough time.  But where was his charity before?  Did he donate to other causes prior to the Nepal earthquake?  Did he redistribute designated charity funds from one campaign to another because of the quake? Do people of wealth have more involved charity plans than those of us that do not have as much?

One of my very good friends owns a very prominent business in a very gay town.  I am not sure there is another person in that town that is more giving than he.  Am I biased?  No, for I hear it all the time from people that do not know we are best friends.  Not only is he giving of his time, his space, and his money, he is also giving of his heart and let's face it, that is the biggest gift we can give.  I invited him to come to Key West this and last weekend, but he has a couple large charity  functions going on.  They can operate without him, but he wants to be there.  He wants to help.  When we have talked about his take on charity and how much he does on the town, state, and community level, you can see he is full of joy and remorse.  The joy comes in helping and being able to help people and causes, may they be big or small.  The remorse comes from not being able to do enough.  The groups, organizations, and people that approach him for assistance and sponsorship need to realize that everyone else has already come to him.  There are others that are established annual campaigns, and he is only one man and one business, but tries to add new and varied causes to the list of who he helps.  Sometimes he has to say no.  In our discussions about charity and giving, he states he has to limit himself as to what he can do.  You cannot give it all away, but you cannot as well be closed off to new causes and community needs that may arise. 

Putting a monetary limit on giving can be a personal battle.  Another one of my friends states she would give most of her income away to animal charities if she could.  For her, what works is an annual giving of 20% of her income.  Most of us are know of the 10% tithing of one's overall income, but she feels that is not enough.  Are there charities that you would give just about everything to?  Causes you may even put before yourself?

But as LGBT individuals, do we give more or less than our other constituents?  Are we going to see record donations from the LGBT community to political figures this presidential race?  Is that really charity?  Some of may feel it is a good investment but it is not the kind of giving I am mentioning.

Looking away from politics, there’s evidence that one of the most generous groups in America is gays. Researchers believe that is because they are less likely to have rapacious heirs pushing to keep wealth in the family. - NYTIMES

So disregarding politics, we are a giving community.  We use to be a community full of just DINKs (Double Income No Kids) and I am sure we utilized our disposable income differently than our straight friends and still do. 

Does our money go as far as we want it to?  Does it benefit us to donate? Are others donating and getting a break?  Many of us donate to causes and organizations, but do we donate to churches?   More and more religious groups are accepting us and letting us attend and be fellow human beings.  One benefit of donating to a church is that it is tax deductible with hardly any questions asked.

Since donations to religious groups, even uncharitable ones, count as "charitable giving," then it is no surprise that religious people give more to charity. Simply put, ... non-religious people don't donate to religion. This is neither earth shattering nor particularly informative. Nor is it surprising that those states populated by sects that push their members to tithe report higher "charitable" giving.

Donations to churches may get reused in a manner that would not be tax-deductible itself, as it would not be considered charitable. For instance, donations to the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, are tax-deductible. Yet the organization gave almost $2 million to fund anti-gay campaigns by the National Organization for Marriage. If the "charitable" Catholics who gave that money had directly donated it to NOM, they would never have received a tax write-off.

However, if you donated to the Human Rights Campaign to counter campaigns funded by the Knights, that donation "can not be classified as tax deductible." Only one funds given to the churches in this political campaign were counted as charitable.

It is not surprising that the most "giving" state is Utah, with a heavy population of Mormons who are required to give 10% of their income to the sect. Their total charitable giving is 10.6% of discretionary income -- a substantial portion of which has to be going to the church as opposed to purely charitable purposes.

But neither Jacoby nor Donahue mentioned West Hollywood, a heavily Democratic city and one of the "gayest." The survey shows residents there give 9% of their discretionary income to charity. I would think most of that went to purely charitable purposes as opposed to religious ones. - HuffPost

To find out what is tax deductible, visit Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions.

Me personally, as a rule I do not give to charity.  Looking at the charts below, I guess I am a true Mainer.  I hardly ever sponsor anyone or donate to walks or races or runs.  As mentioned, if I do give, it will have some time to education.  For the past two years I have purchased an auction piece as part of a student scholarship benefit.  And that is my plan, minimal and education related.   As I filed my taxes this year, my charity did come in question.  Should I have a better and bigger plan?  No, I was happy with what I was doing.  Then as the Nepal tragedy occurred and AIDS walks started, the question was there again.

As you filed your taxes for this past year, did you ask yourself, "should I do better when it comes to Charity?" 

Do you have a charity plan?  Is it based on how and if you can deduct the funds? 

Do you donate even though there is no personal benefit for yourself, no tax breaks, but just because it is benefits others?

What charities do you donate to "religiously?"