Jim Porter: Give your charitable dollars locally
November 18, 2010
TRUCKEE/TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; and#8220;We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.and#8221; and#8212; Winston Churchill
and#8226; and#8226; and#8226;
That advice from Sir Winston really hits the mark for me. No one is going to stand up at your service and tell your friends how you were the best worker in the office. Although my co-workers might, and appropriately so. The lasting stories told will be how you made a difference. What you have done with yourself and for others.
When someone tells me they donand#8217;t get involved because whatever they do wonand#8217;t be enough to make a difference, I quote Betty Reese (whoever she is): and#8220;If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.and#8221; The littlest thing can make a difference.
Donand#8217;t donate to your rich college alma mater
I read an article by attorney Martin Kimel in the Los Angeles Times, titled and#8220;Donand#8217;t Waste Your Charity on Rich Colleges.and#8221; Kimel sings my song.
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Kimeland#8217;s piece describes the university and#8220;endowment races that suck scarce philanthropic resources from underfunded charities.and#8221; He points out that Stanford University recently had an endowment of $15.2 billion (now $13.8 billion with a and#8220;Band#8221;), while Harvardand#8217;s was nearly twice that (now $27.4 billion). That is absurd. In 2004, the endowments of the 10 richest American universities were worth $78 billion. Recently Stanford announced a campaign to raise a record $4.3 billion, joining Columbia and Cornell in the $4 billion fund drive category. Harvardand#8217;s last fund raising effort was to raise $5 billion. Gosh, I hope they succeed.
The point of charitable giving is to benefit society, not to build massive endowments and university facilities to attract famous faculty and enhance the prestige of the university. Thatand#8217;s my take anyway.
Hereand#8217;s how you make a difference: donate locally.
Universities, especially privates, have a whole nation to pull from for their charitable dollars. Our local organizations only have a small region to support them. For example, Project MANA has an annual budget under $300,000. Believe me, they make a difference. For what they do, you would think they have a budget 10 times that.
KidZone operates with an annual budget under $250,000. They are lean and effective.
My own alma mater, UC Davis, a terrific school, has an annual fundraising budget of nearly $15 million. If your heart tells you to give to your alma mater, then by all means do it. For sure Californiaand#8217;s state universities and colleges need the money. But if you want to get more and#8220;bang for your buck,and#8221; keep your charitable dollars local.
For the highest and best use of your philanthropic donations and#8212; give locally.
A friend of mine has a policy of only giving within 30 miles of her home. She likes to see her money at work. I like that.
I remember working with a local woman who wanted to make a donation to help unwed mothers and young girls who never had a chance to go to college. In the end she left all of her considerable assets to the University of Southern California. (Endowment $3.7 billion). Like they need it. Her contribution will be a drop in the bucket and will likely never make it to unwed mothers. What a shame, as that money could have benefited young girls in our community.
Property owners in Lahontan took a different tack. They formed the Lahontan Community Foundation under the wing of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation and have awarded more than $1 million into our local community since 2002. Martis Camp is forming a Foundation for local causes.
Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation
Our own Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, started in 1998, controls assets of more than $15 million and has given more than 1,500 grants totaling $10 million, most locally and#8212; to dozens of worthwhile organizations and causes. $10 million, $1.6 million this past year, is a staggering number and#8212; the result of generous locals and second homeowners.
Some give for the passion. Others for tax breaks; they save money giving it away. Donating to the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation makes sense, as it works in a wide range of areas of interest, so if you want to help seniors, TTCF can steer you to the Sierra Senior Services. Want to benefit families, consider the Truckee Family Resource Center or North Tahoe Family Resource Center or Tahoe Womenand#8217;s Services or Sierra Family Services. These are organizations on shoestring budgets. And there are more.
The Truckee Donner Land Trust and the Truckee River Watershed Council both do tremendous work on modest budgets and you can see the results of their work every single day as you drive around town
Give locally and change a life and#8212; and by doing so define your own life. As Mother Teresa said: and#8220;You can never do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.and#8221; Year end is approaching. Donand#8217;t wait.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firmand#8217;s website http://www.portersimon.com.