‘Tis The Season For Charitable Tax Deductions 2019

I’ve donated 10% of my net income each year since 2016. It’s my “secular tithe.” Here are links to my 2017 and 2018 posts.

In 2019 we donated 10% of our joint net income (whereas in previous years, it was just 10% of mine). Because we’ll be subject to the AMT this tax cycle– exercised my ISO’s from previous employer– I considered doubling up our donations and get a head start on 2020 contributions to reduce our tax bill. Also, “prepaying” my balance would be optimal for tax optimization purposes due to the Republican’s new law. However, that’d leave us with little cash on hand, especially after my bout of unemployment, so I decided against it.

In addition to our direct contributions, my new employer has charitable matching up to $2,000, so I got that for one of my environmental picks.

Unlike previous years when I’ve used donation season to cash in on credit card bonuses, my churning days are more or less over: banks pretty much won’t approve me for new cards anymore. Husband is not interested in it either, le sigh. This means we’ll be feeling the effects of donations on our wallets more directly than in the past, but that’s okay too.

Here are the areas we donated to in 2018 and 2019:


We don’t plan at the beginning of the year how much we’ll donate to each area, but we think this is more or less a decent reflection of my values.

Here are the organizations represented in each bucket:

  • Food Security. This is for the small, local food rescue organization that donates fruits and vegetables to seniors, people with disabilities, and other food programs in our area. This is money I feel “proudest” to donate to each year (see: my deep emotional connection with food).
  • Immigration. Lots of money to RAICES because we as a country continue to jail and torture migrants in droves. Honestly, I don’t understand why the press continues to fuck around about the internal politics of impeachment when people are literally dying under ICE custody. I am deeply ashamed for how impotent I feel on this issue. Money doesn’t feel like enough.
  • Environment. This is split between National Resource Defense Council, Rainforest Alliance, Sierra Club, and Green Wave. My interest is turning away from litigation and lobbying initiatives to direct action and climate change mitigation and resiliency. I imagine this to turn more sharply that way in 2020.
  • Criminal Justice. Local (state) bail fund and two local charities focusing on justice for incarcerated LGTBQ+ folks, women, and families.
  • Civil Rights. This is all going to the ACLU.

What we didn’t donate to this year:

  • Political organizations. ActBlue will probably see a lot of donations from us in 2020, though.

What is your charitable giving philosophy? How much did you donate in 2019 and to what organizations? 


6 thoughts on “‘Tis The Season For Charitable Tax Deductions 2019

  1. My main philosophy is to not let perfect be the enemy of the good. If I can’t figure out where the best place to donate is, I just pick SOMEWHERE that someone I trust has recommended. This was pretty important in getting started. So is continuing to give (and trying to do more) even when I feel like I am not doing enough. It is better to give poorly than to not give at all. I have a bit of analysis paralysis if I’m not careful, and giving is something I struggle with sometimes.

    Practically, I mix local giving (e.g. food bank or homeless issues or localish Donors Choose) with national concerns (RAICES) and political concerns (ACLU and others). I also like to give to global issues where my US dollars can make a ton of impact (e.g. GiveWell). I give to friends and family’s causes when requested, assuming they are something reasonable (e.g. medical research). I don’t really believe in donating to mine or my husbands universities, because I think there are better places for my money to go.

    I love hearing about how others handle charity – thanks for sharing!


  2. I also do secular tithing. I can’t donate to everything important, so I just try to pick the most important causes and then, within those, try to find effective charities. Like SP, I don’t feel perfect at this!
    * protecting the environment – Rainforest Foundation (I started with the Nature Conservancy, which actually buys environmentally sensitive land to preserve, but I like Rainforest Foundation even better because they work with locals who are already experts to help motivate them to keep using environmentally healthy methods, which I think lets them help preserve a larger area per dollar. But I am deciding that begging the government to make decent laws is also effective.)
    * fighting poverty – Give Directly (I started with microlenders because it seemed efficient to use and re-use the money, but then I found out the interest charged was super high, so I let a friend talk me into switching to a similar organization that just grants the money).
    * fighting pain, abuse, torture – RAICES (Normally I choose Amnesty International, but I’m going more local these days.)
    * poverty/environment – International Planned Parenthood Federation (I feel like helping families keep to the size they want is also helping them with their finances and to reduce human impact on the environment as well as just letting them have more control over their lives.)

    I also donate anonymously to help these organizations save money on mail-outs that I really don’t want to look at anyway. It all started when I could contribute through my employer, but I found out they take a huge cut (13%?!), so I switched to JustGive, but they’re gone, so I switched to Network for Good, which is now up to 5%, so now I’ve just opened a donor-advised fund with Fidelity Charity. Their $100 minimum per year is only about 3.5% of my annual contributions, and since I’m stacking two year’s worth this year, I am able to meet their $5000 minimum to open an account.

    In addition to the anonymous 10%, I contribute a little to organizations that have helped me or do help me personally. This year I have memberships in the local public TV and radio stations, my neighborhood association, and a local garden that works to expand native plants. I’ve also contributed toward free websites I like. (I also don’t contribute to my alma maters, which could certainly fit in this category.)


    1. Love the list, thanks for sharing. I definitely need to check out Rainforest Foundation for future years; I feel like my Rainforest Alliance donation was not as well considered as it should have been.


      1. I don’t contribute to the Rainforest Alliance, but I do buy their products when I see them. Switching to shade-grown chocolate was one of the first activist-type consumer changes I made. No one labels their chocolate as shade-grown, but chocolate that is labeled organic, fair-trade, fair-trade certified, or Rainforest Alliance certified are all shade-grown.


  3. I’m in agreement with the ladies here. We donate to a variety of places throughout the year, big and small. I support some of the same charities that I’m personally familiar with every year (local rescue, CASA, homeless shelter, something birth control related, something environment) and rotate in small contributions to new to us places each year. It’s not precisely charity to support artists and creators that I appreciate, that might be more of a purchase/patronage thing.

    This is one area I’ll be putting a lot of time and energy in this year: http://agaishanlife.com/2020/01/2020-update-and-focus-on-charitable-giving/


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