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That Gift of Time Thing

Interesting reading. Tom’s post about philanthropic giving across the USA.

That includes data probably culled from tax returns. In other words, if you don’t use it as a deduction, it doesn’t really count.

Data that says my friends and neighbors are somehow lacking because we don’t declare larger percentages of our income on our tax returns as charitable contributions.

It brings to mind that quote about “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics”.

I look around me at Conservancy field trips. 5-10 volunteers. The clean up crews. Weekly. The restoration teams. The hike leaders.


The Patapsco Heritage Greenway teams cleaning up the river on weekends.

The parents out there with their scout troops selling cookies, or working on scout projects.


The Scout projects all across the county. The volunteers at the schools. For Neighbor Ride.

Those of us who put bags of clothes in the barrels all around the area, and don’t deduct them. The cash donations in the Salvation Army jars. Or, the $20 bills given to collections by fire fighters, or other local charities.

Quite frankly, when I looked at Tom’s list and saw the biggest leaders, and they were all in Utah (can you say religious tithing?), and this is used to say we aren’t philanthropic because we don’t tithe, I was somewhat annoyed.

I find there are hundreds, if not thousands of my neighbors and fellow countians, who open their pocketbooks, get in their cars, volunteer, give time and/or money to places they care about. We just don’t seem to care about being called philanthropic (because we don’t put these things on our tax returns).

I think I get it from this study. We have to account for every cent spent, on that 1040 form, to be charitable.

Oh well, I guess I will continue to donate to my favorite local organizations, put clothes in the St. Vincent de Paul container, take food to the Food Bank, spend hours volunteering, but because I don’t deduct these things, I contribute nothing to society.

Excuse my rant, but stuff like this drives me nuts.


About AnnieRie

Retired, I am following my dream of living in quiet west Howard County, a rural oasis, not far from the urban chaos, but just far enough. I love to cook, bake, garden, and travel. I volunteer at Howard County Conservancy. I lead nature hikes, manage programs and show children all the wonders of nature, and the agricultural connection to their food.

7 responses »

  1. I guess there is room for offense in anything, but that was not the intent. I would add that there is no reason to conclude that folks in Utah are not similarly generous with their time. As I am sure you know from your own volunteer service, many of our County nonprofits are in danger of closing due to insufficient funds. They need paid staff to, among other things, coordinate volunteers.

    • I agree, Tom, that many organizations are struggling. I just didn’t get the point of the study, and wasn’t quibbling about giving, but about how statistics can be made to support any conclusions, even when they aren’t equally assessed.

      During my early years, when I worked for a tax accountant, the largest charitable contributions on most of the individual returns, were for their churches.

      The corporate and business returns included far more for philanthropic interests, percentage and number wise.

      I take issue with a study that uses household income and charitable contributions deducted on a 1040 form, to come to conclusions about the generosity and “philanthropy” of a community.

      Sorry I ranted a bit, but being a math major, and knowing how you can make “assessments” by using the numbers you want to use, like this study did, just sets me off.

      No offense to your point, which is to encourage philanthropy.

      • I don’t know if we can presume it comes from tax forms. Non-profits report their contributions as well and maintain detailed donor records. If I can find where it came from, I’ll let you know, but I imagine that for a number of low income areas they just wouldn’t show up on the map if this was premised on deductions.

  2. Good Blog, Annie. That post you cite takes such a narrow view – agree with you! And you make me think again about voluntarism (as someone who has retired from running the huge Aquarium volunteer program).  People pitching in to help others is what our nation’s frontiers were built on –  neighborly barn-raising efforts.  Powerful leaders, like Eleanor Roosevelt, have been champions and models of “giving time”- and like Kennedy with his “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  And so many national and regional and local umbrella associations organize and tally the volunteer efforts – and total hours – of non-profits.  They of course don’t capture the individual efforts of caring. The schools’ Service Learning is a tricky thing (since that volunteering is mandated) – but I believe in it!  It is a very effective way to capture our screen-attentive young people to physically get out and do something with others on a regular basis, feel the good human feelings that come from doing Good face to face with others, and perpetuate America’s spirit of giving.   Thanks for writing That Gift of Time Thing.

  3. I hear you. We probably could make more contributions, but it still wouldn’t bring us to the point of deductions on our taxes. On the other hand, I do give with confidence to Lutheran World Relief through our church because their track record is extremely good.

  4. I am totally with you on this one, Annie. All the hours I spent sitting with dying people at Gilchrist, all the hours I spent at Days End Farm Horse rescue (not to mention the thousands of dollars I donated to them over the years, not declared), the hours I spent training & taking my therapy dog to child abuse shelters, helping children learn to read, etc, etc, tons of clothes over the years to various organizations, food to the Howard County food bank plus other food drives, untold money to all sorts of charities, special drives, and the like. I have never declared it because that wasn’t the point for me. I know younger folks are used to making sure people know what they do, because that is how they get ahead now. But I am used to just doing. Not for credit. Not for recognition. But because it needs to be done.

  5. And I want to add, even though it wasn’t volunteering in Howard County, my therapy dog and I spent the week before Thanksgiving last year in New Jersey bringing comfort and help to victims of Hurricane Sandy. Totally at my own expense – for our food, gas and lodging. While others here were preparing for holiday dinners.


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