December 2, 2018

When I graduated from college in 2003, my commencement speaker was Teresa Heinz Kerry. She was introduced, a year before her husband John would run for the Presidency, as a philanthropist. As a 22-year-old I didn’t consider that a real job; how hard, I thought, could it be to give away money as a full-time profession? I later learned that it is in fact hard — and not just in a “first-world problems” sort of way.

Philanthropy, on both the giving and the receiving end, is very complicated. Donors want to know that their money is being split appropriately between productive programs and administrative overhead. Organizations need stable funding sources to plan for the long term. For years I’ve been making grants from the Amalgamated Compassion Fund, my donor-advised fund, to worthy charities. I’ve met in person or spoken by phone with representatives from some of these charities. After learning that recurring donations are highly valued, I’m trying a new tactic with my fund: I’ve designated 10 organizations to receive grants every year.

I believe that these organizations share my values of benefiting human rights, providing housing, providing food, and providing education for people of all ages and backgrounds. I intend to supplement my recurring donations with one-off grants to these and other worthy causes, which I’ll call out specifically in future articles.

Recurring donations are now going to, in no particular order:

  1. The American Civil Liberties Union, fighting hate-backed policies and standing up for the disadvantaged.
  2. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, taking a critical non-corporate stance on privacy and security issues.
  3. The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, defending the vulnerable people who live in the Pacific Northwest.
  4. Northwest Harvest, running food banks throughout Washington.
  5. The Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), providing vital human services to address Seattle’s homeless crisis.
  6. Code.org, creating programs to bring computer science education to everyone.
  7. Technology Access Foundation (TAF), using Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs to address income and racial inequality in Washington’s schools.
  8. Forterra, building affordable housing in partnership with local nonprofits. (My donations are separate from my investment in Forterra’s Strong Communities Fund.)
  9. The Seattle Library Foundation, providing services far beyond books free of charge to city residents.
  10. ProPublica, producing vital investigative journalism at a time when the field faces funding shortfalls and government threats.

As always, I urge everyone who has the means to support worthy causes. They’ll last a lot longer — and provide much more benefit — than the next iPhone will.