The middle class is shrinking. Those in power have run up enormous debts on public credit while shoveling most of the money into private pockets. The corporations that have benefitted from this borrowing binge, meanwhile, leverage the global trade system to transfer their profits beyond the reach of national governments.

Meanwhile, we have been told lies by Democrats and by Republicans, divided into artificial camps and led into debates that are either irrelevant or so dramatically scripted that we fail to realize every choice leads to the same result: the dismantling of the social framework that defined and sustained the opportunity of the last century. National mobilization of resources has given way to radical individualism under a narrative that, in the wealthiest nation in the world, we must always expect less.

In this tumultuous time, we search for a way forward - a new Square Deal for the American people.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Charitable Giving and Matching Donations

Yesterday, the USO sent us a letter asking if we'd make a donation under a matching-gift program. The idea of a matching gift has always struck me as a little odd.  "I'm willing to give $100 to your organization, but only if someone else will, too.  Otherwise, you get nothing."  What sort of philanthropist thinks that way?

But matching gifts appear from time to time, sensible or not, and that presented me with a dilemma.  The reason that I'm on the USO mailing list is that I already support the USO with a monthly recurring pledge of $10, which I set at the level because it made sense alongside my other charitable activities, and which I made recurring rather than lump-sum because the USO told me (as many charities do) that they need to get money each month to be solvent.  In isolation, that makes sense.

Now, enter the matching gift:
  • If I give $10 a month to the USO, that's $120 a year. 
  • If I throw in an extra $50 under the matching program, that means that I gave $120 + $50 = $170, and the USO got $120 + ($50 x 2) = $220. 
  • If I end my monthly pledge and wait for a matching gift opportunity, I can give $120 and the USO gets $120 x 2 = $240. 
  • Should that opportunity come at a time when I have the extra $50 to spare, the net gift would be $170 x 2 = $340.
That means that, contrary to the entreaties made for sustainment pledges, if I really want to support a charity that periodically offers matching pledges, I should cancel my monthly sustainment contribution and wait for a matching opportunity, so that I can help the charity lay claim to the dollars half-put on the table by whoever the weird semi-philanthropists are who like to fund matching gift opportunities.

I've apparently been costing the organizations I support a lot of extra cash through my commitment and diligence.  It's time to rethink my charitable giving strategy.


  1. Or you could just dig down and give a lot more when a matching deal comes along.... but I hear what you say.

    The downside is a matching deal might not come along. But then you'd still have to only give the $120 at the end of the year.....

  2. However much I might give during the matching period, the match for whatever I was usually giving would be lost by my giving it during a non-matching period. It doesn't really matter how much I might give; it's purely a function of how matching gifts work, and it's all driven by the bizarre idea that someone is only willing to give if someone else gives.