View Full Version : Tithing and the secular equivalent

08-21-2012, 06:01 AM
I'm not putting a poll, because I would like to pose an open question if I may.

I was reading a couple of threads Elsewhere about tithing, I felt curious about how this works from a non church perspective, and I thought I would be more likely to get responses here.

So, for people who do not practice formal tithing (or Zakat, or whatever is asked by your organized religion), how do you practice charitable giving?
Do you donate a specific amount or proportion of income? Do you donate as and when you can afford to or feel like it? Do you not give financially at all, preferring to contribute in some other ways?

08-21-2012, 09:12 AM
Financial giving, beyond the church, is difficult for us. We do however donate items to various charities-In VA it was to Disabled Veterans, here it has been to Big Brothers and Sisters. We donate time, and get the double benefit of teaching our daughter a moral lesson that we feel is important. I got into a big discussion on this on facebook the other day because I don't consider tithing to your church to be charity, I consider that an obligation you undertake with membership to that church. Charity is what you do above and beyond what is required of you. This was not a popular opinion.

08-21-2012, 09:47 AM
Do animals count?

We're serious animal lovers. If we find one in need of a home, we take it in. When we get back to the U.S. next year, we're going to build a large enough aviary to provide a home for birds no longer wanted by their owners or in need of re-homing. The same goes for cats: we want to find out how to qualify as a shelter and/or re-homing/foster facility for them.

08-21-2012, 12:50 PM
We don't give a certain portion of our income, but we give consistently to our UU church (which does great work in our city, in addition to being our church), to some causes like Heiffer and the local food bank that support anti-poverty issues, and to some causes like the ACLU that support rights issues we care about (usually... occasionally I think they're misguided).

08-21-2012, 01:55 PM
We don't donate a set percentage. We mostly donate when we feel like it. We've donated to an orphanage in Honduras when my husband does Scuba diving trips there. He takes them items that they need (we find out in advance of his trip) and then goes grocery shopping and delivers several bags of food to them in addition to the items he carries over.

We also donate to Russian orphanages because that is where our older son is from.

I spend a lot of my spare time working on wrongful convictions and donate time through writing and advocating for them and money toward their defense because I can't think of many things worse than an innocent person in prison. I also donate to the Innocence Commission.

We have also donated to Special Olympics and Ronald McDonald house.

08-21-2012, 03:47 PM
I have always made a habit of donating money regularly. I like making monthly contributions, so we sponsor a child and donate to environmental groups. I also give money to the Christmas Bureau, the food bank, the youth emergency shelter, the women's shelter, and all children who come knocking on my door (selling cookies or needing a sponsor). When we get a windfall (bonus or gift), I make a point of giving some of it away. I've had to cut back a lot in the last couple of years, but I decided that continuing to homeschool (including my niece) is a worthwhile contribution, too.

My kids get a monthly allowance and they are required to split it up into the following categories: giving, retirement, education, savings, and "free spending." They usually collect the "giving" amount until Christmas and choose someone to give to at that time. Those were some of the sweetest, most adorable conversations I've ever had with the kids. I always thought we would give it to the food bank or the Christmas Bureau, but the kids had other ideas. One year, my 7yo daughter wanted to give it to a relative who seemed like he really needed it. In fact, he was addicted to cocaine and gambling and was living on the streets, but she didn't know all that, just that she wanted to help him. Another time, my son wanted to give it to his Nana because she never had any money. That was HILARIOUS, because she has plenty of money, but anytime he asked her for anything (an ice cream cone, a trip to the toy store), she would open up her wallet and say she couldn't take him because she had NO money. So he gave her some. It was so precious. She was totally embarrassed, but I told her it served her right. I think she gave the money to her church or something like that.

08-21-2012, 04:06 PM
I was not raised with giving at all, but i like to - but on one income, dh is extremely opposed for the most part. I often ask my mom to do donations in my name for holiday/b-day gifts, and some day when i'm working . . .oh, and I use Credo mobile, which has some built in donations, and their long distance too (forgetting the name). i dont have a regular thing w my church really, either, but just drop some money whenever i'm there . . which is very seldom these days . . .

08-21-2012, 05:30 PM
We don't measure a portion of our income but we donate money to our favorite charities each year, donate household items and food to Goodwill and food banks, and also do the giving trees during the holidays.

Stella M
08-21-2012, 06:50 PM
Not a certain amount. As and when we can.

08-22-2012, 02:26 AM
Another time, my son wanted to give it to his Nana because she never had any money. That was HILARIOUS, because she has plenty of money, but anytime he asked her for anything (an ice cream cone, a trip to the toy store), she would open up her wallet and say she couldn't take him because she had NO money. So he gave her some. It was so precious. She was totally embarrassed, but I told her it served her right. I think she gave the money to her church or something like that.
BWAHAHAHAHA that is an absolute classic! Glad she was suitably embarrassed.

I forgot to answer the question for myself.

Dh and I have made the pledge to donate according to Peter Singer's formula (http://www.thelifeyoucansave.com/). So far we have ended up paying a bit more than that, because we have a monthly automatic payment to our chosen organizations (currently Red Cross and Medicines sans Frontiers) plus we will add extra if we have any kind of windfall or sometimes if there is a particular appeal we want to contribute to.

I have given money to people we knew on occasion (bad idea for me). We give away un-needed possessions but I don't really count that as charity (because I'm not giving up something I could have used, just getting rid of clutter that other people can use).

What we don't do: we never ever give anything to telephone appeals, purely because we don't want to encourage them. If somebody phones and we really want to donate to their cause, I'll say no thanks and then make a donation online.

The kids are allowed to choose what they do. They frequently give change to Guide Dogs Australia (mainly because they like the big plastic dog) and another collection for seriously ill kids in hospital. Each year in December we give them an extra amount of money which at this stage they spend on the Useful Gifts Catalog (http://www.usefulgifts.org/). This year one of my kids has decided that she wants to do more and is trying to raise $5000 (!) but that wouldn't happen normally. Tbh I'm not really a fan of TEAR Australia as we generally choose organizations that aren't religiously based, however the kids love to be able to buy something concrete like "a toilet" (I have explained to them that their money doesn't literally purchase a specific toilet, but still they are attached to the idea). We figure that it's nice to encourage the principle of giving to those less fortunate, and hopefully they will be become more discriminating about it later on.

I would love to get them involved in volunteering when they're mature enough to do it. I used to volunteer for quite a few things but I gave up recently. Actually this is the first time since I started kinder that I have not been either studying, in paid employment or in some kind of volunteering position. I feel a bit bad about it, but I just can't manage to do it at this stage...

Not sure what I think about the whole tithing issue. I have always wondered why churches don't have a progressive tithing system similar to a progressive tax system, where the bigger your income the bigger proportion you're expected to contribute. Also I guess it depends on what the church uses the money for, and how efficiently this is done (but I presume you wouldn't be attending a church if you didn't trust them). If all or most of the tithing money has to cover the church's expenses, then I'd probably feel that I should donate to help actual poor people as well.

08-22-2012, 02:42 AM
We try to give to local charities and community first. That is really important to us. I give a certain amount to my UU church and also participate in their drives to help stock up the food bank and focus charity. I also give small amounts to some other organizations that help in our local community (women's shelter, homeless shelter, animal rescue group, and a group that offers help to immigrants). We also give of our time whenever possible. I tend to be a giver and would write a check for every hard-luck story I hear. My husband is not opposed to giving, but he wants to make sure that our needs are met first. We balance each other really well. Right now, we give small amounts; in the past, we've been able to give more. We don't really have a set percentage in mind; it's more that we give as we are able.

08-22-2012, 06:38 AM
Not a certain amount. As and when we can.

That pretty much describes us.

We used to give a set amount every month to one charitable organization until we became disillusioned with some of the things we were hearing from them and decided they weren't where we wanted our money going. And since then we haven't found another organization that we felt strongly we want to donate to regularly. Instead we try to give as much as we can to local food drives, soup kitchens and things like that. We also volunteer as often as we can. DH's employer regularly works with local organizations to set up volunteer activities for their employees (and their older kids, usually), so we've had the opportunity to do volunteer work for quite a few local places. And if we count animal rescue as a volunteer activity, that's something I do all the time with our local SPCA.

08-22-2012, 08:32 AM
I'm not as formal about my giving as I'd like to be, but then I'm not as organized about anything in my life as I'd like to be. I do put spare change etc into a jar and once a year we donate that to a family agreed upon group. B1 has his street performer's license and half of what he earns goes to charity. Currently he donates to a group that provides financial assistance to families with sick kids. He may well switch to a seedbank in the near future.

Accidental Homeschooler
08-22-2012, 06:35 PM
We pay school fees for two girls, one in Tanzania and one in Haiti, so basically we are paying for other kids to go to school lol. But we don't use a formula or anything like that.

08-22-2012, 07:40 PM
I donate when something strikes me as important. Last year it was the Red Cross for the Joplin tornado victims; this year we're doing a lot of relief stuff for the local fire victims. Some years our 'charity' is NPR or PBS. We don't have a set amount that we give, either... and sometimes our giving takes the form of volunteering or practical donations like goods. I find that if we donate when we WANT, then we don't resent or feel obligated to continue. And I hate forced giving.

08-22-2012, 08:05 PM
We give when we feel like it and when we can afford to. If a friend does a walk for some cause, we'll donate. If they ask us to add a dollar or two onto a purchase at the pet food store to go to the local shelter, we'll do that. We always sponsor kids at Christmas and give very generously to them. Do we set aside a portion of our income for donation purposes? No.

08-23-2012, 05:29 AM
We try to give about 10 percent of our income but that's not always possible right now. We encourage the kids to give 10 percent of whatever money they make to a charity of their choice. They usually save it for several months and then pick someone to give to. My daughter likes Feed My Starving Children while our son tends to give it to the plate at our UU Church for one of their special charities they collect once a month for.

10-03-2012, 10:52 AM
Several years ago while walking into church one morning my husband and I were approached by a guy who taught financial classes to the church members. This was a paid position. He stated that we had not signed up for any of his classes and or turned in a portfolio to him and asked why? I just stood there puzzled, absolutely speechless. He then made a comment that we had to be in debt because our car was an embarrassment to the church. I was no longer speechless-I explained to the guy that we had no debt, the car was paid for, that we had an appointment to get it painted the following week and that no one had invited him to stick his nose into our finances. Up to that point I had faithfully tithed 10% throughout my life but that was the turning point. I quit going to church and decided that churches were stepping way over my boundary line. I no longer believe in tithing 10%, but believe that the church one goes to is a matter of choice and "at no time" should the leaders get bossy by sticking their noses into an area they have not been invited into. I once attended a church that had a tithe box at the back of church and never once asked for money. The Pastor said that the tithe actually increased when he changed the way they operated.

10-03-2012, 11:41 AM
We are heavily involved in 4H and do a LOT of community service - the kids and I help sort canned food donations, clean up after the community Thanksgiving Dinner, serve refreshments at the Veterans Hospital New Year Eve's party, worked food drives, help the ranger out at our local park events, work the Christmas Party for Underpriviliged Children (usually cookie, toy donations and running a craft table), etc. So we donate a lot of time and always food/toys, etc., whatever they're collecting. We also just held an archery tournament and raised over $600 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
If you're looking for ways to get your kid into community service, 4H is great. Its not just animal projects. My kids are in archery (I'm the leader), dog agility, and a new project this year where they learn how to polish rocks and make a necklace out of it. Of course the project offerings depend on your club so take a good look at all the clubs in your area before picking one. Our club is over half homeschool so we have a lot of projects which meet during the day which is nice.

10-03-2012, 12:10 PM
Financially we're also in the what we can, when we can group -- preferably direct giving, I confess we model a bit of skepticism as we have seen fundraisers that passed on very little money to the intended beneficiaries.

What we do is as much community service as we can, and we donate time and goods as well. I think DD learns more from participating in service than she would from anything else.

10-03-2012, 12:11 PM
We are heavily involved in 4H and do a LOT of community service ....
If you're looking for ways to get your kid into community service, 4H is great.

Pretty much the same here; my kids give a lot of their time in community service through 4-H. (In fact, they are helping with a fall festival for young kids this weekend and a park-sponsored Halloween party for the local community next weekend.)

As a family, we tend to donate time more than money but do both. We keep our efforts concentrated locally, mostly on helping the homeless as one of my SIL runs a shelter and food pantry here. I never knew how desparate for toilet paper these places are!! I go on Amazon, order at least $25 of it so I get free shipping, and have it shipped straight to the shelter.

10-03-2012, 12:39 PM
We pledge money to our UU church, but it is nothing close to the 10 percent that tithing generally is. We just don't have the money for that. Like others, we donate items to Salvation Army etc. But I think that the most valuable thing that we do, is give of our time. I volunteer as a court appointed special advocate (CASA), and my son and I have started volunteering at the local animal shelter. My husband helps with the groundskeeping etc at the church, sometimes I work at the soup kitchen, and I think this year hubs is gonna volunteer to coach the midgets football program in town. It feels good and provides a service to those non-profits that we are behind.

10-03-2012, 06:39 PM
There are fine secular charities and non-profits:

Camp Quest | The Secular Summer Camp (http://www.campquest.org/)


And here's a great list of interesting secular/atheist/humanist charities:

Effort Sisyphus: Atheist Charities (http://techskeptic.blogspot.com/2007/12/atheist-charities.html)