How much money did you donate to charity this year?
More than last year?
More than your friends?
Do you feel good about the amount of money you donated?
It can be a pretty subjective thing to say you donated “enough.” After all, we are all living under very different circumstances.
FIGHTING TO DONATE LATER
Warren Buffett has pledged to give over 99% of his wealth to philanthropic endeavors. And seeing as his current fortune is estimated to be worth around $90 Billion, it’s safe to say he’s going to make a significant impact in the lives of many.
A number like that can make you feel like you aren’t doing enough. But that’s an unfair comparison.
In fact, Warren hadn’t always planned to do this. Earlier in his life he would have fights with his late first wife over how much they should give to charitable causes.
It wasn’t because he didn’t want to help anyone. He just felt that he could do more if he allowed the impact of compound interest to play out over time.
In a documentary called “Becoming Warren Buffett”, he said that “The biggest thing about making money is time. You don’t have to be particularly smart, you just have to be patient. Susie didn’t want to wait as much as I did – she never quite appreciated compounding like I did.”
He understood that if he allowed his investments to continue to grow, he’d be able to do much more later on in life. In a way, if he donated at a younger age, he would be limiting the total amount of good he’d be able to do over his lifetime.
But how much is enough? You can always strive for more money. But there are always people who are currently in need of help.
SHOULD YOU DONATE NOW OR WAIT?
So, should you be donating now, or waiting to donate larger sums later on in life?
If you choose to donate now there are several benefits to doing so, and one clear negative.
The benefits are that you get to help people now, and you get to enjoy your good deeds throughout your life, instead of waiting until the end.
As I mentioned before, there are always people in need, and they’d most likely prefer you helped them today instead of waiting, potentially decades.
Also, one of the nice benefits of doing good deeds is the positive feeling you get for having done something nice for others.
I wrote about this in a past article titled “It Turns Out Money CAN Buy You Happiness.”
By using your money to help others, you can actually make yourself happier!
The clear downside is what Mr. Buffett was talking about when he said “The biggest thing about making money is time.” By donating money now that will be used in the present, that money can’t be invested and grow to larger sums in the future. It’s trading an immediate impact for what could have been a potentially greater lifetime impact.
The pros and cons to this are the exact opposite of donating now.
You’ll potentially be able to amass more wealth and do a greater good, but it will come at a sacrifice of doing good in the present, and you won’t get to enjoy it along the way.
DONATING FOR THE “RIGHT” REASONS
On that topic of enjoying it along the way…
I have heard people criticize donors for not doing it for altruistic reasons, and this annoys the heck out of me.
People will get upset when a person’s name is put on a building for having donated a large sum of money to an organization. They’ll say “If they are doing it for the “right reasons” then they shouldn’t need to have their name put on a building.”
In my opinion, it shouldn’t matter the reason someone is doing a good deed. If you are helping others, you are helping others – It doesn’t matter if you are doing it to get notoriety.
And I can almost guarantee you that those people in need – who are benefiting from the donation – aren’t worried about why the person who donated is helping them. If it’s a homeless person who now has a place to sleep, they are thankful. If it’s a child who is dealing with food insecurity, and who can now have a warm meal, they’re ecstatic.
Plenty of people don’t donate at all, so let’s not hate on those who do.
THE EVOLUTION OF PHILANTHROPY
There is a natural evolution in how much time and money people donate to charitable causes.
It’s very common to see a successful businessperson amass a great fortune and then dedicate their life and fortune to helping others through philanthropy.
The biggest name you hear about is Bill and Melinda Gates. After creating one of the largest and most successful companies of all time, they’ve created a foundation and now spend their time trying to tackle the biggest problems facing our world.
NOW & LATER
As with most things, I think there is a balance you can find between donating today, and saving for the future.
There is certainly a lot of validity to the idea that if you are smart with your money and invest it wisely, you’ll be able to grow it to a much larger sum. But I think you should also enjoy the good you are doing by donating along the way, and get to see the positive impact you can have on the lives of others.
Heck, maybe they’ll even put your name on a building for it.