To Give Or Not To Give…and How Much?

by Sasha

Money Jar
Photo Courtesy of Tax Credits

If any of us was Bill Gates, we wouldn’t ask ourselves whether we should donate money to ME charities. We’d just do it. We’d reach into our gigantic bank account and drop our billions on the problem, secure in the knowledge that we were pouring such shedloads – no, planetloads – of cash onto it that the problem would be solved.

We’re not Bill Gates. So, should we bother giving if we can’t give billions?


In his book, ‘How to Change the World’, John-Paul Flintoff says that we tend to think that when big things happen, it’s because one person did something big, but in reality, it’s usually lots of individuals making small contributions. It’s well worth each of us making even small donations, because we’re among thousands doing the same thing. It’s also important to tell others what we’re doing so that they don’t feel like suckers if they give and so that we make donating to our charities a social norm. By telling people about your giving, you multiply it.

So if you’re not in debt or really struggling to afford the basics, it would be a good idea to donate. But how much? As people who are chronically sick, we’re probably going to be a bit more cautious with our money than most but if we pick a strategy that suits us, we’ll be more likely to give and to feel comfortable doing it. And it needn’t be the same strategy forever: pick something that suits you for now, and if it doesn’t later, change it.

Here are a few approaches to choosing how much to give:

1. A fixed percentage of…

…something. UK Charities Minister, Nick Hurd, suggests giving 1% of your income to charity. Some religions suggest 10% and Bill Gates (who we are not) gives 50%. Clearly, there’s no agreed standard and it’s a question of what feels right for you. But it needn’t be a percentage of your income. It could be 1% of what you spend on treatments for your ME or 10% of what you spend on posh coffee. Your choice, but first have a go on the ‘How Rich Am I?’ calculator, which uses your income to work out where you stand among the world’s richest and where you would stand if you donated 10% of your income. Quite an eye-opener.

2. A flat sum

Saves getting the calculator out, and easier to weigh up in you mind in terms of whether you can afford it. $500 a year? Great. $50 a year? Great. $5? Great, seriously. If the 1 million people in the US with ME gave $5 each, we’d have $5 million. If all you can afford to give is $5 then give it, and tell people about it when you do because they’ll realise their $5 is worth giving too.

3. What you can save in a week

I’m pretty tight-fisted and like to think I’m frugal but, like everybody, I spend money on little luxuries and oddments, and it all mounts up. Indeed, without the occasional treat, life would be a bit of a joyless grind but doing without the unnecessary for a week is a doable and even enjoyable challenge, especially if it’s for charity, and particularly ones as deserving as ours! You could do this once or several times a year. I’m putting it in my diary for once a quarter.

4. A proportion of what you can sell

It doesn’t take long to list things on Ebay and if you know the money will go to charity, you’re more likely to make the effort and turn more of your unwanted stuff into magic cash. You can give everything you raise, or just a percentage. Some of the ME charities are registered on Ebay and you can set up your item to donate a percentage directly to them. There’s also Craigslist, Amazon Marketplace, car boot sales, yard sales and so on. If you don’t have the energy to deal with selling, you may have friends who will sell for you, for a cut. Or, if you have the energy, you could sell your friends’ things for a cut for your charity, as well as your own stuff.

So pick a strategy, or several, or try one after another. Every donation, no matter how small, gets us nearer to diagnostic markers, treatments, and a cure.

And post a comment to tell us what you’re doing!


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