Philanthropy begins . . . at three

My friend Oli, age three, is a philanthropist. Maybe not on the scale of Bill and Melinda Gates, but what were they doing when they were three? Probably not donating 100% of their disposable income to their favorite charities.

Oli with bankWhich is what Oli did recently, making him my current favorite philanthropist.

This adventure started when Oli’s bank, something that gives him great pleasure, reached its saturation point. Oli’s bank is an apolitical elephant bank. Oli had been stuffing it with coins received in Easter eggs (the Easter bunny has taken a capitalist turn since I last knew him) or acquired when there was small change from the dairy store, etc. So he enlisted his grandparents to accompany him to the bank, where the bank was relieved of its coinage. The elephant lived to start a new collection career, and Oli took possession of $32.60.

Next, Oli conferenced with his parents about the highest and best use of his $32.60. Right off, he chose his two favorite charities as beneficiaries: the local library that is one of his all-time favorite places in the world, and Mount Nittany Medical Center, which he refers to as “My Hospital.” Oli came into the world at Mt. Nittany, and a few months ago his baby sister Helena did the same. The first experience was significant to others, but the latter was the high point of Oli’s year.

Oli has already had a thank-you letter from the director of his hospital, advising him that he is officially their Youngest Donor. His $16.30, the director said, will be used to buy needed equipment to help the nurses and doctors who deliver babies there.

A grown-up fan of Oli’s, who knows a little about nonprofits and fundraising, subsequently matched his gifts. Thus the elephant bank’s impact has doubled, and the library and hospital have now netted $32.60 each, for a total economic impact of $65.20.Coins

Admittedly, $65.20 won’t change the world today. And Oli may well find something more entertaining to do with his overstuffed elephant bank by the time he turns four. But this seems to me what philanthropy is about: choosing to forgo some small pleasure (half of $32.60 could, after all, have bought a nifty toy and an ice cream cone) and instead show support for some worthy cause that is near and dear to your heart.

Feel free to send a check for $32.60 to your favorite cause, with or without a note that it is an Oli matching gift. Who knows? The elephant bank movement could make the world better

 

 

 

The season of giving/funding/etc

Cedar Christmas Wreath

Cedar Christmas Wreath (Photo credit: wilsonevergreens)

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year — Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or just getting an annual new start — you are undoubtedly receiving daily invitations to help others get their own new start. With dollars. It’s a tradition of the season. And despite all the despair about consumerism and commercialization, answering all those year-end appeals has an upside.

Your dollars can do good.

Just in case you can’t decide where to send them, this space would like to suggest a few possibilities:

In the end-of-life arena, your dollars can double their value if you send them in the next 10 days to Compassion & Choices, a great organization with a dollar-for-dollar match currently available. Full disclosure: I’ve been a volunteer, board member etc for Compassion & Choices NCA for well over a decade; more disclosure: it has Charity Navigator‘s highest rating.

Planned Parenthood! So some of their facilities offer abortion services — which is making this excellent organization the target of every right-wing anti-women group in the U.S. They also perform invaluable services across the full spectrum of reproductive care, for women and men alike. I get weary with their solicitations, but still send money because they do good. They also have a match waiting for you to double your dollars between now and the end of the year.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, check them out. If you want to support legislative action (and not get a tax deduction) you can send much-needed dollars to the activist group. But the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation also does good, and is a 501(c)3.

On a smaller scale — and the small-scale organizations often need your money the most and do every bit as much good — here are just a couple of suggestions:

SisterSong — mobilizing women of color (and well worth the support of women of all colors) for reproductive justice.

The Women’s Information Network — Many different iterations in different parts of the country, but WIN members: young, progressive, professionals, are the women who will create change as well as the age group with the most to lose as reproductive choice disappears.

Catholics for Choice — just because Catholic officialdom opposes abortion, contraception, women’s reproductive choice and everything else (end-of-life choice included) rational, countless good Catholics do not. My favorite Catholics, a lot of them at least, are pro-choice. And this one Protestant for choice thinks Catholics for Choice is a great group.

These are just a few of the places where your dollars can help make a difference, and a happier new year for many.

Channeling Brooke Astor: Could this story be yours?

It’s hard to feel sorry for Anthony Marshall, Brooke Astor’s kid. Okay, he’s 85, but he’s still her kid. According to current reports, Marshall managed to appropriate from his declining mother, before she died at 105, a few zillion dollars that weren’t rightfully his. This despite all the zillions that were. And despite the fact that he had lived quite a respectable life as a diplomat, manager of the family estate, member of significant boards and producer of plays. The judge who sentenced him to one to three years for his transgressions said he believed Mrs. Astor loved her son and was loved by him. But it came to one pretty sad end.

It was a finale — some would say a sobering, Shakespearean finale — to a case that had mushroomed from a family feud over her care into a five-month trial for “grand theft Astor,” as one prosecutor described it on Monday, “a six-year crime spree involving a series of larcenies.”

In the back-story, heard sobbing in the courtroom or often shown helping him through doors and into cars, is Marshall’s wife Charlene. Nobody ever said Mrs. Astor loved Charlene, or vice versa. But the son and his wife come off as money-grabbing ultra-rich ingrates, who neglected, mistreated and swindled the beloved aging philanthropist.

Fascinating as such tales of wealth and intrigue inevitably are, several legitimate questions nag:  When did everything turn sour? When did a son who presumably loved and respected his mother forget about doing that? When did a mother who presumably loved and provided for her son become preyed upon rather than protected? And could the finale have been different?

Never having been on intimate terms with the Astors or the Marshalls, I can’t answer for them. But countless unspectacular versions of filial love gone wrong or lower-profile cases of neglected aging parents  are played out every day, and similar questions nag.  Could some open dialogue, before the parties hit their 80s and their 100s, have made a difference? Could closer attention, earlier on, to the complexities of health care  — and who would be in charge — have made the last years better for the aging parent? Were there wounds that could have been healed, plans that could have been made before dementia and calamity struck?

There frequently are. It’s easier, too, if you don’t have a zillion dollars.

Anthony Marshall Gets Prison for Stealing From Brooke Astor – NYTimes.com.