Byron Baldwin comes from a family of givers, some of whom have worked to help others at great risk to themselves. His grandfather was active in the NAACP in segregation-era Mississippi, while his mother was a member of the first integrated class at South Natchez High School in Natchez, a city on the Mississippi River then-notorious for Ku Klux Klan activity.
“They were ensuring they left the world better than they came. I know that sounds cliché-ish, but that is really where it is,” Baldwin says. “I just watched that for all 39 years of my life.”
As a member of two giving circles, the Next Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP) and A Legacy of Tradition (ALOT), Baldwin follows in his forebears’ footsteps. He works to improve communities in Durham, where he lives, and he wants to demystify philanthropy.
“You hear about philanthropists and you think about the Bill Gateses and the Oprah Winfreys, not knowing that the individual which you borrow a cup of sugar from across the street, they are being a philanthropist because they are offering that to you in just the spirit of goodwill,” Baldwin says. One doesn’t have to be staggeringly rich to make the world a better place – that is, to engage in philanthropy, he says: “It’s just a big word for giving.”
In giving circles, members work together to determine the direction of their giving and then pool their money to make a sizable donation, usually to a local nonprofit with which they form a lasting relationship.
Around Thanksgiving and the December holidays, charitable giving spikes. In 2014, 17.8 percent of that year’s giving happened in December alone, according to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report. There are some, however, like Baldwin, for whom philanthropy is a way of life. He and many other adults in their 20s and 30s stay involved in their communities, giving time, treasure, and talent year-round.
78% of NC nonprofits saw more demand for their services in 2014
For some, philanthropy and community involvement is a deeply rooted family tradition. Others are just getting started. Both sets, though, want to know exactly what impact their contributions will have.
Simply dropping a check in the mail is not enough.
“This generation sees it kind of differently,” says Adam Compton, 29. “What’s the social return on our investment? How are you using this money? It’s a much more two-way kind of conversation that has to take place.” His giving circle, Longleaf Collective, a group formed to help young professionals pool their resources and get involved in charitable giving, is preparing to issue its first grant. Some members grew up with traditions of philanthropy and some even work in nonprofits, he says, while others are involved for the first time.
Members of Longleaf Collective each contribute 0.5 percent of their annual income to a fund, and this pool becomes the Collective’s grant. It’s no different from crowdfunding, he says. “We are, in a lot of ways, the Kickstarter generation,” Compton says. “We’re pooling around one central thing and giving all the money to this one organization and this one idea,” whatever it ends up being.
The Beehive Collective follows the same model, with an added social element: it holds events at downtown Raleigh night spots like King’s, Centro, Southland Ballroom and Person Street Bar. These casual affairs are designed to make charity approachable for people new to it. This year, Beehive Collective will award $27,000 to an organization that is working to address challenges to the local immigrant population, a theme chosen by members.
“Our average member is young – most of our members are in their 20s or 30s,” says Beehive Collective co-chair Stephanie Schweikert. “Young people do donate, but my personal sense is that few organizations work to engage them in philanthropy.” This demographic can’t always write checks of the size older generations can, she says. But at any level, philanthropists in their 20s and 30s want their contribution to go beyond money. They want a sense that they’re actively improving their communities.
“I’ve seen it when somebody who graduated maybe five years ago, they definitely want it to go to a specific place,” says Tobi Shannon, who was raised in Raleigh but is currently a senior at Spelman College, a historically black women’s liberal arts college in Atlanta. “When they write that check, they say ‘I want it to go to the drama department,’ or ‘I want it to go to the renovations at the gym.’ ” Women who graduated two or three decades ago, Shannon says, are more likely to donate money for the school to use as it sees fit.
About 26% of North Carolina adults volunteer; the national average is 27%
Shannon, like Baldwin, comes from a family of givers: her parents are founding members of NGAAP and she is a member as well.
Another generational difference Shannon sees when it comes to giving is she feels her generation is more focused on grassroots organizations than on nationwide or big-name nonprofits.
“Those types of organizations are larger and represent more people and are very generalized,” she says. “I think my generation is more focused on creating smaller, more impactful grassroots organizations within our communities that make a bigger impact because they are for specific causes.”
One summer, she interned at the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Youth Service America. It’s a huge organization, yet Shannon looked to a very local project to know how she was helping. “We would go and help kids with their science projects at a school that was around the corner from the office,” she says. “That’s how I saw my impact.”
Strategic giving, as Baldwin calls this, is essential – every community has different needs, and he is focused on Durham’s. The dropout rate is quite high in some parts of the city, a trend ALOT has targeted there and in Wake County, and there is a need in the African-American community for unity in the face of frightening societal trends.
“We are back in a very similar situation that my grandfather and my mother were in, and that is scary,” Baldwin says. Philanthropy is serious business in his family, and he has taken up the banner with the same gravity preceding generations did.
“You should always pass on the legacy that is passed to you,” Shannon says. When she graduates in December, she will take her legacy of philanthropy with her.
WHAT IS A GIVING CIRCLE?
Giving circles are locally focused groups of people — sometimes of a certain age, race or gender — who work together to determine a cause to learn about and fund. The members pool their money to make a large donation to an organization that furthers that cause.
Here’s a list of some giving circles in the Triangle:
▪ 20/20 Sisters of Vision (Durham), 2020sov.tumblr.com
▪ A Legacy of Tradition (ALOT) (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), http://nando.com/2s5
▪ The Art of Giving, a collective of Triangle Women (Chatham, Durham, Orange and Wake counties), nando.com/nandocomartofgiving
▪ The Beehive Collective (Raleigh), The Cary Women's Giving Network (Cary), http://nando.com/nandocomgives-beehive
▪ The Long Leaf Collective (Raleigh), www.longleafcollective.org
▪ Native Giving Circles (Chapel Hill), nando.com/nandocomnativegiving
▪ Next Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP) (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill), www.facebook.com/Ngaap
▪ The Wake County Women’s Giving Network (Wake County), nando.com/nandocomwake-womengiving
Source: NC Center for Nonprofits; NC Community Foundation
The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance offers the following tips:
▪ Get the charity’s exact name. With so many charities in existence, mistaken identity is a common problem.
▪ Resist pressure to give on the spot, whether from a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor. Take time to do your research first.
▪ Be wary of emotional appeals. What matters is not how tragic the problem is but what the charity is doing to help.
▪ Get specifics. If the charity says it’s helping the homeless, for example, ask how and where it’s working.
▪ Check websites for basic information. A charity’s mission, program and finances should be available on its site. If not, check the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Allianc give.org.
▪ The N.C. Secretary of State’s office licenses most charities or professional fundraising organizations operating in this state and keeps a searchable database of each organization’s financial information. Details also can be obtained by emailing email@example.com or calling 888-830-4989. nando.com/2t7
Another reason to give
It feels good to give, but it can also have financial rewards come tax season. Here are some tips from the IRS to keep in mind:
▪ Qualified charities. You can only deduct gifts you give to qualified charities. Use the IRS Select Check tool to see if the group you give to is qualified. Remember that you can deduct donations you give to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies. This is true even if Select Check does not list them in its database.
▪ Monetary donations. Gifts of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. You must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity to deduct any gift of money on your tax return. The statement must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, or bank, credit union and credit card statements. If you give by payroll deductions, you should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document from your employer. It must show the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
▪ Household goods. Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens. If you donate clothing and household items to charity, they generally must be in at least good used condition to claim a tax deduction. If you claim a deduction of over $500 for an item, it doesn’t have to meet this standard if you include a qualified appraisal of the item with your tax return.
▪ Records required. You must get an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. Additional rules apply to the statement for gifts of that amount. This statement is in addition to the records required for deducting cash gifts.
▪ Year-end gifts. You can deduct contributions in the year you make them. If you charge your gift to a credit card before the end of the year, it will count for 2015. This is true even if you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2016. Also, a check will count for 2015 as long as you mail it in 2015.
▪ Special rules. Special rules apply if you give a car, boat or airplane to charity. For more information, visit IRS.gov.