This post initially started out as a way for me to work out my “Numbers Goal” around donations. But then I did some more reading and learning, and adjusted my expectations and my aspirations for giving in 2021. And then I decided to participate in the 2021 Coldest Night of the Year. As per usual, I have bitten off more than I can chew. So this post is going to cover a whole lot of things, while also not getting close to the whole picture. I am still learning and growing and figuring stuff out. This blog represents a snapshot of where I am at today.
I do not typically donate to large charities, and I try never to donate to cancer charities. I split my donations between registered charities, non-profits, and giving funds directly to folks who need it (on Go Fund Me for example). I still enjoy that tax benefit when donating to a registered charity, I can’t seem to get past this 100%. But my goal is to do less of that this year, and more just giving money (or things) to folks who need it. I am not an expert in “charitable” giving, but I think it is important to share my good fortune and spend my privilege with folks who don’t have it.
SOLIDARITY VS. CHARITY
Something that has been building in my brain for a few years now, and really clarified itself over the past 12 months is the distinction between charity and solidarity.
I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people. - Eduardo Galeano (source)
The more I read, and learn, and open my eyes to what is happening in our world, the more I realize that we need systems change. I heard something the other day in relation to the work my team does at Pathways to Housing. We are working our way out of a job, that is the ultimate goal. We are working toward a future where we are not needed in our current capacity. That is a big part of solidarity.
Solidarity starts from the belief that the folks receiving the help know best. They know what they need, and solidarity helps them get it. Charitable organizations answer to their Boards and their funders, not (usually) the people they serve. These Boards decide what to spend money on, where to put their resources. And oftentimes, this is not influenced by the end users of their services. This makes charity temporary, or fluctuating as the priorities of the Boards change. Solidarity is meant to make permanent changes to promote justice and equality. And is dynamic based on the actual needs of populations and individuals.
It makes you think.
COLDEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR
I have always put my charity money toward organizations that I have a personal feeling toward or connection with. Back in November I changed jobs, and started working for a group that works directly with folks who are experiencing chronic homelessness, substance use, and complex mental health diagnoses. This is the trifecta of crap that makes it really hard to participate fully in our society as it is currently set up. I interact everyday with people who have lived really ridiculously tough lives. And I frankly had no idea what it would be like, what they would be like. And it makes me want to spread the word, and share these experiences with people in my non-work circles.
All of this led me to the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser, which technically took place last week, but is wrapping up over the next few weeks.
We walk for those whose days are a battle to house and feed their families, and whose nights are filled with fear and frustration. We walk for those driven from home by violence and abuse. And we walk for people overwhelmed by isolation, guilt and despair. We walk humbly, realizing that anyone can lose their footing and then lose everything else.
Thanks to a lot of amazing folks in my life, I was able to collect over $800 that will go to the Bissell Centre in Edmonton. This is a way that I can not only spend my privilege, but maybe educate some folks in my circle to the reality of life for other people in our city. And encourage them to spend their privilege as well.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ME
I have ideas for solidarity, but I am also an introvert. This makes it difficult to find out what folks need and want. Part of my word for 2021 - Radical - involves taking steps outside of my comfort zone to get at the big goals. Here are some big - and small - goals around solidarity for 2021.
Set up a Little Free Pantry
Make connections with my neighbours and community
Learn about and then contribute to land back initiatives
As part of my larger money-related goals, I am tracking all of my solidarity and charity spending this year as well. I have a number in mind for the year that I broke down by quarter and then by month. So far this is a money goal that I am on track with (the only money goal I am on track with…)
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I still haven’t got the whole comment on this blog thing figured out, but please reach out on the contact page if you have comments or questions. This is part of a larger conversation that I think we need to be having, especially us folks with wealth.
FURTHER READING & RESOURCES
What do we mean by ‘Solidarity Over Charity’? (ThoughtWorks)
Is Charity the same as Solidarity? (Exploring Your Mind)
This is not charity, this is solidarity (Briarpatch)
The Real Problem with Charities (Medium)
What is Land Back? A Settler FAQ (Briarpatch)
Image sources (screen shots):
Polly Barks Instagram story (@pollybarks)
The Big Story podcast episode from October 22, 2020
Bissell Centre Instagram story, January 16 (@bissellcentre)
Alphabet Alliance of Colour Instagram repost of @atxreparations