Monday, December 25, 2017


Charity should be a good subject for Christmas.  If you are on any mailing lists you receive appeals at this time of year from all sorts of worthy causes and, if you happen to have given to any in the past, there will be twice as many at this time of year.

You might be able to classify some of these as, in alphabetical order, Arts & Culture, Education, Health and Hospitals, Protective Services such as Police and Firemen, Social Well Being and probably 20 more.  You may want to give to everyone who asks but you have to limit yourselves according to your means and inclination.  In New York I used to contemplate how much it would cost on a daily basis if I gave a dollar to every beggar I passed that day!

I never used to understand why the Billionaires hired people to help them decide what charities to give to until I semi-retired and had time and some disposable income.  In addition to the merit of the cause there is the issue of where will your gift do the most good. I am assuming for this piece that we are only speaking of legitimate charities and not analyzing individual ones.

Obviously the choice is personal. Everyone has had experience of illnesses and hospitals so health-related causes naturally get wide support. The arts get a much smaller percentage of charitable giving, and since the arts have been our field it is the focus of our giving.

When I moved from New York to New Mexico I found that there were cultural causes I never knew about or understood properly.  Though I certainly knew about the terrible things the Anglos did to the Native Americans over the centuries I did not understand all their needs still today, and also, the need to communicate their culture to the Anglo world.  Out west I have discovered the Native American museums.  The only one I knew before was the Museum of Natural History but without understanding it had little meaning to me. Beyond preserving and displaying their arts the cultural traditions of Native Americans need to be supported in their schools.

We took for granted the countless theaters and concert halls we had to choose from in New York, but in Santa Fe we have only a single performing arts center (the Lensic). Without that venue we would not have a location in which to enjoy visiting musical artists of national stature, or our own dance company or symphony or any live performance, so naturally we support it.

Here donated dollars go farther. I have to make a cost comparison from personal experience.  I have belonged to gyms in New York and Santa Fe and attended them in a number of other places.  To belong or bring a guest is 2 to 3 times more expensive in the big cities than in Santa Fe, which is considered quite expensive for New Mexico because a lot of the inhabitants are retired transplants or have a second home here. It is the same with museums: although individual memberships start around the same figure, higher levels can cost 10 times as much in a large art center .

Support is much more appreciated locally. The same amount of donation to an organization in a major center that would only be recognized by a formal letter of receipt from the development office, here is recognized not only with the formal letter but often a hand written note from a trustee, and, in one case, from the founder of the organization, or even a luncheon invitation!

As I was finishing this up I saw that my subject of Charity accounted for a section in the December 18th issue of the magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, The main thrust is  practical advice on giving to charities, but there is also a part about diving in and enjoying the process.

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