Flexible Philanthropy Fund

Philanthropy.

Long word. Kind of funny sounding. Incredibly profound effects.

So what exactly is philanthropy? 

According to dictionary.com:

“altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.”

In other words: the dollars you donated to the local animal shelter, those moments you volunteered in your child’s classroom, that 5K you ran down Greek row to raise awareness for CARDV, or the times you spent serving hot meals at The Salvation Army…those are all acts of philanthropy.

I condone philanthropy on a regular basis & maintain practicing acts of philanthropy as often as I can – but it is especially prevalent around the holidays. During the winter when the weather gets colder, warm thoughts & kind actions towards others from all walks of life are especially important.

I know that you often hear a designated percentage of your budget should be allocated towards philanthropy & charity – whether it be 10%, 15%, you name it. Yet, I could never fully comprehend why you would want to limit yourself from giving (whether monetary value, or volunteer hours) and hit a point where you say: Oh, I donated my $100/2 hours of volunteer time this month to this charity and now I’ve met my quota.

Now I completely understand…sometimes there are just too many foundations, funds, shelters, people, social causes, and the like out there to give to all. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking care of your family, your friends & yourself first because life happens before you can give to others. It’s all about balance. I could understand that is why people like the consistency of allocating a certain percentage to charitable & philanthropic causes in a month.

But then I got to finishing the book All The Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam. Here is one of the biggest themes/paragraphs that just sang straight to my heart:

Give yourself some philanthropy fun money. Concentrate the bulk of your giving on a few organizations, but leave about 20 percent of your total charitable budget unrestricted, so you can dole it out to things that strike your fancy. In the context of buying happiness, I can think of little more fun than going through life with the mind-set of always looking for ways to make the world better for $5-$20. And not just via nonprofits. Spending money on other people qualifies as pro-social spending whether there’s a tax deduction involved or not” (181).

 Vanderkam then lists out several ways that you can exercise utilizing your philanthropy fun money. Bingo. Enter in a Flexible Philanthropy Fund. You may not be able to write out $100,000 checks at this point in time to your charity of choice (although, I hope on my financial journey at one point in my life I can pass such an amount on). But having a portion of money that you can use at your discretion to make positive changes can have a large scale effect on others. Even better? The flexibility aspect of giving when you can and not stressing about what the dollar value has to be.

To get started with this fund take $5, $10, or $20 this month (could be cash, or a designated amount in your checking account). Use this amount in any way, or fashion that would promote some form of philanthropy in your hometown. Want to kick start using the amount of money you set aside? The next person you encounter in your hometown who is raising money/bell-ringing/giving awareness to a cause – give that total amount that you have set aside for your fund, no questions asked!

Want a couple more ideas for a Flexible Philanthropy Fund? Inspired by Vanderkam, I put together a list of 10 ways you can put this fund to use:

  1. Give money to the kids at the car wash fundraising for their sports team (even if your car doesn’t need a washing)
  2. Cover the cab/Uber fare for all your friends on your outing
  3. Head over to CharityWatch.org, click the “Top Rated Charities” link, donate to a charity that’s listed under the starting letter of your first name
  4. Write random notes with positive messages and leave them on campus/around town to put a smile on someone’s face
  5. Overfill the parking meter (even if you only need about 10 minutes in that parking space) that way the next person does not have to pay
  6. Help friends reach their entrepreneurial goals by providing tools or time to their business
  7. Take a moment to pick up a lost item to give back to it’s rightful owner
  8. Spend just a little longer talking to that stranger who has a lot to say at the grocery store
  9. Find a local non-profit or charity you are most passionate about and volunteer your time to their efforts
  10. Purchase a coffee, snack, or meal in advanced for the customer in line behind you

Of course this is a limited list, and there are an incredible amount of ways you can utilize a Flexible Philanthropy Fund. Whether large, or small a Flexible Philanthropy Fund when put to use with no boundaries can create an immense amount of joy to others. Jot down ways you would use such a fund, and encourage friends & family during this holiday season to participate in all the ideas you wrote down. You never know – one random act of kindness can ignite the passion in another to pass it on. 


What would you add to the list above with a Flexible Philanthropy Fund? Are there any special things you’ve done for philanthropy? Let me know, I would love to hear your experiences!

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19 thoughts on “Flexible Philanthropy Fund

    1. Thank you, Maggie!! That’s incredibly true, introducing your kids to these concepts is absolutely wonderful. Thanks for sharing that nonprofit!! This is so neat! You just taught me something new about my own city!! 🙂

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  1. This is great Alyssa. Giving back is one of those things I always mean to get to, but don’t really get around to it. If I know someone I’m close to is part of a cause I’ll contribute, but I would like to get in the habit of contributing to my own causes, especially when my daughter gets older. I promise I will start donating regularly soon!

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    1. That is completely okay, Vic! The intention is there and that’s what counts. 🙂 Like you said, future endeavors & security for your family is incredibly important as well. That’s why just a little here & there still makes a huge difference!

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  2. Oh gosh, I love this! I always feel like I give sort of haphazardly, like, oh hey, some students are having a bake sale to raise money for their basketball team, I’ll buy a cookie, or oh hey, my friend is running a marathon and wants sponsors, so I’ll sign up. But I definitely never thought of making an actual planned flexible giving fund for any of this; it has always just felt random. I’m going to put this on the list of things I need to deal with once I get a new job and know how much money I’m making. Thank you for the idea! I also love how your list of ideas for how to use the FPF are really creative. 🙂

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    1. Sarah! That’s awesome! Even the randomness still contributes to the idea of a FPF (I love the abbreviation)! 🙂 I think you bring up a fantastic point, the spontaneous nature of utilizing a Flexible Philanthropy Fund. Thanks for thinking of adding this to your list – I look forward to how you may put it to use!

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  3. Hola! New reader here. The idea of “philanthropy fun money” revolutionized my giving. For so many years I confined my giving to pre-selected causes that automatically deducted from my account, which allowed me very little room to give out of sheer joy and just for the fun of it. Now I’m trying to give more to things I really want to give to.

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    1. Hi Ernie! Thanks for finding your way here! 🙂 Its incredibly neat to hear how you initially had your contributions automated, kudos for that! That’s fantastic to hear that you are going to spread more joy in different ways, the evolution of your giving sounds great!

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  4. What a great idea! I’m actually going to write this line item into our retirement budget today! We have a few orgs we give to through monthly automatic donations, and then do a lot of our giving at the end of the year once we know how much we can give based on how our finances shake out — in addition to volunteering as much as we can throughout the year! — and we really look forward to stepping this up when we retire! And we always try to say yes when friends hit us up, or kids come knocking on the door raising funds for high school football or whatnot, so maybe we’re already doing this but just not calling it the flexible philanthropy fund. In any case, I love framing it this way — thanks for the idea!

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    1. I am so thrilled to hear that! 🙂 I am also incredibly happy to hear how many people have automatic donations set up monthly – we all know the glorious magic of automation. I definitely look forward to hearing how your journeys go in retirement, because I know there is an incredible amount you are going to contribute to others! You are so welcome, sometimes highlighting it this way really allows you to maximize your giving. 🙂

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  5. Like you, we believe donating to others is a very important part of life. We set an overall percentage of our salaries because this way it stays a priority for us and when our incomes go up, our giving goes up. It seems like an easy way to do it! Then if there are unexpected disasters that happen around the world, or a friend is raising money for a new cause we also will give money towards that on top of our set percentage. It just feels really good and really right 🙂

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    1. That’s such a fantastic plan, Jess! The set percentage is great, and I love how when your salaries/incomes increase, you then increase your donations. Thanks for sharing how you put this into practice! 🙂

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  6. Great post. We have always split our charitable giving four ways: 1) our church; 2) the united way; 3) a non-profit I’m on the board of; 4) a FLEXIBLE share. In 2016 we are taking it to the next level. It is our last year of work before early retirement (@ 49) and we are banking all of our paychecks for over the last year for giving away in early retirement. The idea of flexibility is to have some FUN with the money and that’s what we’ll be doing as we give away a full year’s salary & bonus.

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    1. That’s fantastic, those 4 ways sounds great! I am so thrilled to hear about your plans of giving away a full year’s salary & bonus!! That is incredibly generous. I cannot wait to read more on the development of that!

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