For no good reason, the Muttrox family gives charity in lumps. At some point in the year we sit down and figure out how much we’re going to give, pick out our favorite causes for the year, and write a few checks.

If you want to do good, there’s always a tension. There are two main ways to do good.

  • Relieving symptoms: Giving money to a begger, giving a meal to hungry people, adopting, helping out at Meals on Wheels, etc. You can only help a few people at a time. You have an immediate direct impact on lives, but their problems will probably come back the next day or year and your efforts are a drop in the bucket.
  • Attacking root causes:Giving to human rights, political causes, overpopulation, curing diseases. You go after the core issues that you think cause a lot of the problems of the world. You think your money could conceivable help the entire world. But if it does it will be in years or centuries and you never get the immediate payoff of concretely fixing something.

There aren’t many causes that span the gap. Microlending perhaps. I tend to favor the “root cause” approach. It fits well with my personality. It doesn’t call for personal involvement or ever meeting the beneficiary of the charity, but I believe it’s more effective in the long run. This also seems like the approach of the Gates Foundation.

How about you? Where do you send your charity funds? Or do you give at all?

This year the Muttrox family gave to four causes. I have two causes that go firmly in the “root causes” category: Human rights and literacy. I firmly believe that if you took any of the worst countries on earth and gave them governments that couldn’t torture them to death arbitrarily, and the populace was literate enough to learn about the world, there would be dramatic improvements. I give to Amnesty International. Literacy is harder, I haven’t found quite the right organization for me yet. In the meantime I gave to Literacy Action, who provides adult literacy programs in Atlanta. Can you believe it costs $2,000 for one adult for one year? Wow.

The other two are more in the symptom relief category. Solidly in the symptom relief camp is the Atlanta Food Bank. Their donations have plummeted and their needs have skyrocketed, both driven by the poor economy. We stepped in a little bit.

The last two years the majority of our charity money has gone to The Innocence Project. This group is dedicated to freeing wrongfully convicted people. Reading a sampling of the people they have helped is eye-opening. How would you like to spend the rest of your life in prison because of bribed witnesses, incompetent lawyers, corrupt judges, etc.? Maybe like this guy in the news this week. You have DNA evidence that will prove your innocence, but the system won’t let you take the test. Or you’ve already proved it but you still can’t get sprung. I am very glad to be a supporter of this group.

3 thoughts on “Charity”

  1. My favorite charity is Horizons for Homeless Children. ( They create schools for homeless children to be brought into from shelters each day, and build play areas in shelters so that they can play with other kids and toys and such in the evenings. In short, they keep kids on track while their parents are getting their lives in order, so that in the event that after 4 years of poverty and shelters, when their parents get their lives on track and get housing and a job, the kids have been keeping up with school, etc. all along, so they aren’t 4 years behind.

    Interesting article on the Texas man. Check out this article from the Boston Phoenix on a man who punched a guy in the face, and wound up doing life in prison with no parole.

  2. Good article.
    I like your approach also. We do something a little similar, we sporadically buy supplies for the Ronald McDonald house near us. We did a few things with them through work and the Muttrox family has continued on. They provide a place that a whole family can stay at while a child has long medical care. Most of the children there were car accident victims who were on a long road to recovery. The families tended to be poor rural ones, by staying there they were able to live together as a family in those incredibly tough times while being very near top-notch medical care.

  3. one of your better posts. we are reactionary donators. we donate to our kids public school and its PTA and district foundation the most amount. any friend who sits on a board of trustee of non-profit or is leading some big event, we will donate to support them. we donate through work sponsored fund raising event. there’s no master strategy.

    but here’s a dilemma. i want to donate to my college, but it’s an out of state university where it’s unlikely my kids will go. i had a good experience there and wouldn’t mind giving back, but i don’t live near there and don’t have much association anymore except rooting for football team. on the other hand, my grad school contributed most to my financial well being. however, my contribution would be small compared to many of the fat cat alums and they have one of the nations top endowment as it is. what i’m trying to convey is my money would probably be more appreciated at a non-profit or my undergrad. i want to make a bigger size contribution. what do you think oh mighty muttrox?

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