How to give away money

If you want to support progressive organizations but aren’t sure where to start, this is for you.

The first thing to know about giving away money: There is no right or perfect way to do it.

With that caveat, here are some tips for those of you who want to donate to social movements.

How much money should I give away?

There’s no magic number or formula, but here are some possible approaches:

  • Choose a random number and see if it scares you — and then increase until it does.
  • Track your expenses, savings, income, and debt using a tool like Mint, and then give away what’s left. (Maybe even shift your budget to make more room for donations if it feels right).
  • Check out the average amount that people in your income bracket give away, and give a little more because who wants to be average.
  • Get inspiration from your religious tradition (e.g., tithe a percentage of your income or give in multiples of 18).
  • Choose a politically significant percentage (e.g., White people earn 40% more than Black people on average, so maybe you chalk that chunk of your income up to unearned privilege and give it away).
  • Ask financial advisers, friends, and family for advice. How much do they give? How much do they think you should give?

If you’re giving out of your income, consider setting up monthly donations. Nonprofits like reliable income, and it can help you maximize the amount you give if you spread it out over time.

Most private companies and some nonprofits offer donation matching, which is basically free money — if you make a gift to a nonprofit, your employer contribute the same amount (sometimes even more!) to that organization. More on that process here.

If you have access to some source of wealth that you’re not using (e.g., an inheritance, a trust fund) because it’s intimidating, overwhelming, or it doesn’t quite jibe with your aesthetic and lifestyle choices, now’s the time to figure that out!! Check out Resource Generation and Solidaire for support when moving big money for the first time.

Where should I give my money?

There are so many amazing organizations out there that need your support!

First, narrow it down. What issue areas are you most invested in? Do you want to fund national, local, or international work? Is there a particular changemaking strategy (e.g., legal advocacy, community organizing, art, service delivery) that intrigues you most? There are lots of lists of organizations floating around the Internet right now — a friend of mine compiled this great list, and here are organizations led by women of color that I’m really excited about.

If you know what issue or region you want to support but can’t decide between specific organizations, try a fund or foundation that will do that work for you. For example, North Star Fund and other community foundations make grants to local community organizing nonprofits. Astraea Foundation funds queer and trans organizing around the world, and Groundswell Fund supports the movement for reproductive justice.

Most importantly, consider organizations that don’t have a lot of resources and name recognition. Consider organizations that are really connected and accountable to communities most impacted by injustice. The Planned Parenthoods and ACLUs are invaluable, but they’re part of a bigger movement ecosystem with other organizations that need love, too.

Are there other ways I can use my money to support social movements?

Yes! How about making loans to community-owned enterprises? Check out Regenerative Finance and The Working World for more on that. Or you could make in-kind donations, like buying supplies for water protectors at Standing Rock. You could give to individuals through crowdfunding pages, or to activist collectives that aren’t formal nonprofits. For example, is a new crowdfunding platform where individuals and groups can raise money to support transgender and gender noncomforming people impacted by the criminal justice system.

What if I don’t have money to give, but I want to help resource awesome progressive organizations that I love?

One of the most magical things you can do for an organization is to help them fundraise. Ask your friends, family, coworkers, social media followers to make donations to organizations and projects that you care about. Facebook has a new fundraising feature, FYI.

How can I learn more about giving to social movements?

Join a community of other people who are asking the same questions and figuring it out together. If you’re young and wealthy, check out Resource Generation. If you are any age and want to move money to grassroots movements with others, consider joining Solidaire. Get involved with a community foundation in your area, or join a community of donors who support a specific issue area, like the Trans Justice Funding Project or Third Wave Fund.

If you want to read more about this stuff, check out the Resources section of the Resource Generation website. If you want to track your giving, try Giving Side, a new online platform that makes it easy to track and analyze your giving.

Bottom line

Give. Just start somewhere—don’t let perfectionism get in your way. And invite friends and family to join you!