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How I think about giving

I was asked to go into a little more detail around how I think about my Fairness Fridays posts.

They were originally inspired by Fred Wilson’s Funding Fridays, which highlights a new crowdfunding campaign. I actually really like those: it’s a fun way to discover new projects that are getting off the ground. But while there’s a lot of focus on new businesses in my circles, and particularly new startups, there’s much less on groups on the ground who are working hard for equal rights and the dignity of vulnerable people. Although I’m not rich, I’ve been lucky enough to earn an above average technology sector salary. So this is a small thing I can do: contribute weekly to organizations in a way that’s within my means, and compound that by encouraging others to do the same.

My mission in work is to build things that have the potential to make the world more equal. That’s my philosophy towards giving, too. Most of the organizations I highlight are providing services that should really be provided by government but aren’t: I’m a strong believer in social safety nets as infrastructure. In a perfect world, giving and philanthropy of any kind wouldn’t need to exist, and the well-being of vulnerable people wouldn’t depend on the whims and attention of people who are wealthier. But here we are, and the people who do this advocacy and support work are hugely unsung heroes.

I typically don’t give to religious organizations, because I’m not religious, and I think any kind of proselytizing in the course of providing community services is immoral. (It should go without saying that I’m also not interested in conservative-leaning organizations: supporting the vulnerable means supporting an identity-positive, pro-choice future with a focus on distributing equity.) That said, I know that not every religious organization does this, and they do provide vital work in many communities, so I’ve made exceptions (particularly at the border). I also prefer to give to smaller, community organizations rather than larger nationwide endeavors, on the grounds that the former are likely more in need of funds - but again, I’ve sometimes made exceptions.

I often privately ask for recommendations, and I’d love any recommendations that you’re willing to share. If you know of a great local community organization that has the potential to help vulnerable people gain equity through advocacy and direct support, I’d love to hear about them.

These posts aren’t the only giving I do. I also donate on a monthly basis to many of the organizations you would expect, including the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. These nationwide organizations do deeply important work, and my omission in this series does not imply a lack of support.