Giving What We Can

I’ve toyed over the years with giving away ten percent of my earnings, yet have never felt that I could really afford it. There are the car payments and the student loan … and yes, well, the nice dinners out and the vacations. I don’t feel we live a wealthy life, we’re modest in our purchases and save quite a bit, but we do live well, I’m aware of that. And although giving ten percent is a goal, today it feels even more difficult because we’re living on one salary and in the process of buying a house. But the truth is, we’re making a choice, either to do it or not to do it; and because philanthropy is my bailiwick I lead the troops in this choice. If I just had a way to visualize what kind of sacrifice we were talking about here …

Enter the How Rich Am I? tool. Plugging in our household numbers illustrated that we are in the richest 3% of the world’s population. You kinda think that space is reserved for people like Bill Gates and Oprah and it’s intimidating to think you could have the same kind of impact with your earnings if you were thoughtful and intentional about it. The space between how well I live compared to the person down the street who built a million dollar house suddenly grows very slim. The following page provides a pledge calculator to show what you could contribute over your lifetime and how this amount translates to lives saved, years of healthy lives saved and years of school attendance produced. Really good stuff.

It’s a choice, like everything else: one day you just make a different choice, no big deal. I like to think we’re making steps in the right direction; this year we gave the largest gift we’ve ever given. I won’t lie, it’s hurting a bit, but I don’t regret it. It’s our baby step toward bigger gifts, to pushing the envelope even further so we always feel a bit of that pinch. It’s refreshing to say to myself, you can’t have an espresso today because you made a choice to support arts education instead. That doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all; it feels like a gift.

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