December 8, 2012

I've made it a goal to give at least 5% of my salary to charity every year. To centralize this effort, I started the Amalgamated Compassion Fund a few years ago. The Amalgamated Compassion Fund is a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund. I donate money and securities to my fund, reinvest them, and issue grants from the proceeds to nonprofit organizations. Ideally, the reinvestment helps my cash reserves to grow even larger, tax-free.

The Amalgamated Compassion Fund has granted more than $10,000 to entities small and large, local and national, and it has a healthy reserve for additional grants. I've been particularly attracted to organizations that are bringing necessary services to underserved populations in innovative ways. This year's grants went to, in alphabetical order:

Carnegie Mellon University. A perennial selection, CMU is my alma mater. Although the university has been growing tremendously with programs in Pittsburgh, Silicon Valley, Qatar, and recently Rwanda, the cost of a high-quality education there continues to rise. I hope that my contribution, along with those of other alumni, can help to rein in costs for future students.

charity: water. Clean drinking water is frequently unavailable in much of the developing world. I hadn't supported this organization before. I was motivated both by the humanitarian need to reduce the spread of disease and the innovative technological development that charity: water has been doing to track and verify their projects' efficacy.

FareStart. An unusually visible nonprofit, FareStart trains the homeless and the disadvantaged to work in the food service industry by running a restaurant, a catering business, and a cafe. The proceeds from these help to fund ongoing job training and placement programs. The food's pretty good, too.

The Himalayan Cataract Project. I learned about the HCP from Lisa Ling's National Geographic documentary "Inside North Korea." This organization sends surgeons into underserved areas in Asia and Africa to perform essential eye operations. Simple surgeries can prevent or counteract visual disabilities. I know firsthand how expensive it can be to have vision problems, even in the developed world, so I'm glad that this organization is working to improve life for those who would never be able to afford or even find a qualified doctor to perform such a surgery.

Northwest Harvest. Hunger continues to be a major problem in the U.S., and Seattle is no exception. Northwest Harvest distributed more than 26 million pounds of food last year to hundreds of food banks, meal programs, and schools. Food banks nationwide have been under an extraordinary strain as so many families have had to choose between nutritious food and other essentials like housing and utilities.

Seattle Art Museum. SAM runs two museums and a sculpture park in Seattle. Their finances took a turn for the worse after their landlord and major benefactor, Washington Mutual, collapsed in 2008. To help fund bold marquee exhibitions like Picasso and the current Elles: Pompidou, and to avoid financially-motivated closures during the winter months, I support SAM's general fund in addition to renewing my membership.

Worldreader. David Risher, a former Amazon employee and one of very few people to have his own tribute page on Amazon.com, now runs a nonprofit which brings e-books to schools in the developing world. Many countries are now building mobile phone networks instead of the traditional landlines, so 3G connections are now ubiquitous. Worldreader develops kits of Kindle e-readers, books relevant to each school's curriculum, and solar chargers that maximize the already-long life of these devices. Worldreader makes me truly proud to work on the Kindle team, building devices that empower readers around the world.

If you find any other charities helping health, hunger, and education in innovative ways, please let me know. The Amalgamated Compassion Fund lives to serve.