Financial report 2011

My total personal spending in 2011 was £6’981.51. I made the following charitable contributions:

Matched donations

Of that total, £5’172.14 was either money due to me or my own personal cash, £1’799.01 was donations by others in order to match my donations.

When I made the pledge I was about to get £10k of investment. I was in the UK for the first time in 3 years and I was finding it very hard to reconcile the wealth, excess and waste of the first world with the developing world where I had been living. I was about to be flush, was trying to make sense of the world around me, and the pledge seemed like a sensible way to do that.

Then reality set in. The investment never came, I pissed about for a good six months before generating any income. It was a tough year. I was feeling serious financial pressure from the pledge. In November an opportunity arose. Mark Shuttleworth was offering to match Movember donations. The year was drawing to a close, I was well behind with my donations, and here was a chance to half the cost of donating.

I gave over £1’000 on 24 November. Not because I thought Movember was a great charity to support, but because I was feeling the serious financial strain of giving half my money to charity. I was barely generating enough cash flow to stay afloat, and at the same time facing a huge charity bill. I caved and took a soft option.

That sparked a lot of thinking about matched donations. Is it reasonable to count the whole amount towards my giving total? After reconciling it back and forth, yes, I think it is. To be clearer then, my commitment is not so much to give to charity, but to generate charitable contributions. I was directly responsible for generating those donations, even if they weren’t with  my own money. If money were no object, I’d ignore the matched donations just because I could, but I think it’s “fair” (whatever that means) to count them.

Giving to Movember was still a cop out. I gave to ease the financial pressure, not because I wanted to support the cause. I’m trying to learn from the experience.

Response

People’s responses have been interesting. The negative response far outnumber the positive. Stop and think about that for a second. Somebody says they’re going to give money away, and people criticise, condemn, and complain. Sad.

From here on, if you have something constructive to say, please do share it. If you want to bitch, whine or moan, keep it to yourself, I’m not interested. You all know who you are.

Spread

I aimed to split my giving into 3 parts. One part give a man a fish, one part teach a man to fish, one part part first world philosophical nonsense I think is important. The first two thirds were to focus on the world’s poorest people, those who genuinely are in need. I reckon 39% of my chosen organisations were in the third category. That number was mostly skewed by my donation to Movember. It soaked up all of the third part and more.

I hope to keep better within my aims in future giving.

Going forward

While writing this post, for the first time, I’m considering that I might not continue the pledge fully in 2012. It was a demanding commitment last year. I simple assumed I’d continue on the same basis, but maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll find a different way. I’m going to take a week or two to think about it and then make a decision.

I believe that people dying through lack of food is simply unacceptable and we each have an obligation to take action. Over the next few weeks I’ll consider how I want to honour that responsibility in 2012.

Opportunity International UK

From my research, Opportunity UK International is an organisation worth of support. For any UK citizens reading this, the government is matching all donations to the Opportunity 2011 Christmas Appeal until 21 February 2012. If you’re considering a charitable donation, I recommend supporting their work. Your donation will go twice as far if you support this campaign now. You can read more and donate online here. Think about it.

Happy new year. Do something worthwhile in 2012.

4 thoughts on “Financial report 2011”

  1. Interesting that you say negative commentary was so common! What were the comments (or type of comments)? Was criticism truly of the fact that you gave money to charity? or was it criticism of the method; or maybe the narcissistic way in which you may have reported it?

    I find it hard to believe people would criticise true altruism. I certainly don’t and congratulations on a great achivement!

    To balance that view I would disagree that you should include matched donations in your own balance sheets: across the population that’s just double-counting (since no doubt Mark Shuttleworth counts the £1 he gave also). Put another way, you talk of ‘generation’ rather than ‘giving’ – but should a fundraiser say they gave £1,000,000 to charity just because they convinced the general public to collectively do so?

    I’d say be proud of what you achieved, and don’t devalue it by blowing your trumpet on the back of other peoples’ commitments to bolster your efforts. They did what they did. You did what you did, and that (as far as I’m concerned at any rate) is a wonderful thing.

    1. Thanks for your feedback and for the (mostly) kind words. I’ll leave the subject of narcissism as a matter of opinion.

      I don’t think I agree with your argument about counting matched donations. If we’re taking the universalisation test, I think it’s only reasonable to consider the full impact. If every person gave £1 for every £1 they spent, I don’t think it would much matter if people counted matching donations.

      Plus, my objective was to match my spending with charitable contributions. In all the cases where my donations were matched, I think it’s reasonable to assume that those matching donations would not have been made were it not for my donation. A person who encourages others to give money by fundraising doesn’t fit into the same category in my mind. Especially in the case of professional fundraising, which I’d guess most of it is.

  2. Yeah, also interesting to hear that you feel the majority of comments about it were negative.

    I certainly questioned the matching issue (as you well know) and I’m not sure that I agree with your opinion on it – although I’ve not read about the universalization test. I think I was looking more at what I had understood you said you were going to do, and then seeing something which I understood as different to that. Interesting to read you feel that the Movember matching was somewhat of a cop-out, I guess perhaps I thought it was but felt you didn’t.

    However, that aside, I think what you did was truly remarkable. I’m aware that you spent an enormous amount of time and energy on the task and I think that what you achieved was staggering.

    I think that this is an example of you making a decision based on ethical or moral reasons to do something very difficult, and perhaps people may find that hard to understand and possibly react negatively as a result.

    I think that the sacrifices you’ve made in the last year are amazing and I salute you for being an inspiration to me and hopefully others.

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