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February 28, 2007

tax time & giving to gay organizations...

No, my first name ain't 'donor', it's 'Janet'.  'Miss Jackson' if you're nasty....or, what have you done for me lately?

Tax time is upon us, and a fortunate few of us could use some charitable deductions. Recently a friend of mine was preparing to donate a portion of his earnings to the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), and asked me what environnmental groups could use his extra dough. After some thought I came up with a few questions for him based on some of the things I learned as an environmental education major, but certainly not from the point of view of a person with extra money to give.

After several e-mail exchanges, we eventually whittled it down with the following questions: What environmental issues concern you the most? Do you like wildlife? Local, global or personal? Furry or feathered? The friend in question has a strong interest in furry hominids, but outside the bars he likes quackers.

We ultimately settled on Ducks Unlimited, because he likes ducks, geese and swans, and the organization works to preserve habitat crucial in their migrations and breeding. I warned him that they are supported by a lot of hunting interests, but then again a lot of habitat would never have been preserved without this support. Waterfowl habitat preservation in turn supports aquatic plants, turtles and other critters. I don't know if he eventually gave to that organization or not, but going through the process made me think about local and national interests concerning The Gays.

Many recent posts by cranky bloggers about major gay organizations, talk of a "gay insurgency," and the state of the movement forum I attended got me wondering if people are wholly aware that there are a variety of organizations to choose to donate to, and that maybe we shouldn't get so comfy putting all our eggs in one equal-sign branded basket.

HRC has its place, but no one should feel like they are limited in giving to one group (or non-deductible PAC, as John points out) . Many gay organizations (check out this database) handle targeted, local and specific interests (like a gay rugby team, for instance) that may be more important to you than a large, well-marketed umbrella organization.

Here are a few things to consider before giving money to a cause, organization or institution:

So get your ducks in a row, do some research, and give to the organization of your choice that gives back.

Posted by jimbo at February 28, 2007 8:39 AM

Comments

Taxes would be a bad reason to give to HRC, as the donations aren't deductible; they're a PAC, not a nonprofit.

Posted by: John at February 28, 2007 12:19 AM

I decided this year that politics could take a backseat for a year. Instead of giving money to SLDN via my paycheck, I figure Fisher House (which provides housing for families of those at Walter Reid), as well as the Nature Conservancy (because it reminded my of Britain's National Trust, who provided the location every family excursion while living in the UK) and MSF/Doctors Without Borders. I also usually give a large slice to Brother Help Thyself, but looking upon my receipt, I seem to have reversed some numbers and instead it's going to a homeless shelter in the area. No harm, no foul on the last one, will have to find the money to make it up some how this year. BHT always appealed to me because they were local, their costs low and they parcelled out funds better than I probably could on my own.

This was the first year, and likely the last for a while, that I've ever had a charitable donation be tax deductible, so as a rule, if I'm giving, it's coming out of my pocket with no rebate. Expense ratios have to be low for me to give, which has always worried me about many of the "leading light" gay orgs.

Posted by: copperred at February 28, 2007 1:53 AM

Is BigMuscleBears tax deductible? When George gave us that $600 a few years back I wrote two $300 checks to groups I knew the Republicans hated- an HIV charity and a land preservation organization.

Posted by: homer at February 28, 2007 9:41 AM

A few great resources for checking up on your charities of choice:

Charity Navigator
http://www.charitynavigator.org/

GuideStar
http://www.guidestar.org/

Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance
http://www.give.org/

RE: HRC. Donations are only deductible if written to the HRC FOUNDATION, a different arm (which probably doesn't know what they other one is doing half the time.)

Interesting note about them from Give.org: "Despite written BBB Wise Giving Alliance requests in the past year, this organization either has not responded to Alliance requests for information or has declined to be evaluated in relation to the Alliance’s Standards for Charity Accountability. While participation in the Alliance’s charity review efforts is voluntary, the Alliance believes that this lack of cooperation may demonstrate a lack of commitment to transparency and accountability."
[http://charityreports.give.org/Public/Report.aspx?CharityID=739]

Posted by: TSheehanDC at February 28, 2007 3:38 PM

My rule is to give causes I know and truly care about. Unfortunately, I have yet to find charity that gives a Porsche with a hot man in the passenger seat to deprived gay guys in DC.

I don't think enough contributions are given to non-political organizations in the GLBT community. Groups like the Renegades and (shameless plug) DC Strokes provide grass roots visibility of the diversity in the GLBT community, put a human face to GLBT issues, and from my perspective are more effective changing the opionion of the straights on the street than all the lobbying and smoozing HRC does.

Posted by: JD at February 28, 2007 4:16 PM

my CFC went to PFLAG, American Rivers, Dove-Lewis Emergency Animal Hospital and Friends of Trees.

I already give to HRC, the Nature Conservancy(the hubby works there, so they get his blood, sweat and tears too), IMBA, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Oregon Disability Sports and a couple local ones here.

The bf got a little perturbed when he found out that I gave charity about $800 last year.

Hey, they needed it!

Posted by: TonkaManOR at February 28, 2007 5:02 PM

How about something for the future of the community? The Point Foundation. It is a scholarship fund for LGBT youth whose families pulled all of their backing and support, including in many cases the college funds they had saved up for years, when they found out their kids were gay. I've met some of the kids and they're great. They can get a full scholarship. The requirements they must meet are maintaining a certain grade point average, working with a mentor and completing a project that contributes to the LGBT community. The work the foundation has been doing is like a quiet revolution. More and more of the kids receiving the scholarships are going into areas of law and political policy working for LGBT rights. Their website is http://www.thepointfoundation.org/ The Point Foundation is very close in my heart.

Another group to consider is The Trevor Project [ http://www.thetrevorproject.org/staging/ ]. it is the only 24 hour suicide hotline for LGBT youth. Their work is very important also.

Both of these groups work with our community's future. Donations to these groups is completely deductable. They both have federal tax id non-profit numbers.

Posted by: mike/ at February 28, 2007 10:50 PM

I think I need to start the Jimbo Foundation.

Posted by: jimbo at February 28, 2007 11:35 PM

As I move into development, your writings and words are right on. It's always important that people do their research and an informed giver.

Posted by: Dan Adolphson at March 1, 2007 7:39 AM

Walker Whitman. It's not a donation, it's an investment.

Posted by: GayCanuckintheCapital at March 1, 2007 1:03 PM

Shaw EcoVillage is a local establishent training DC youth to be leaders in the community! Please consider them next time. www.shawecovillage.org

Posted by: Neil at March 1, 2007 2:44 PM

Yeah Yeah I'm late in making a comment to this entry.. but hey better late than never right?

I just wanted to say that I NEVER donate to any political organizations or anything related to PETA.

Rob and I do what we cant to donate to the SPCA and animal shelters (only NO KILL shelters) I dont report what I donate in my taxes because in my mnd the reward is knowing that a needy animal had found a loving home.

Posted by: Dax at March 3, 2007 9:31 AM