How to do reparations on an individual scale?
October 16, 2019 11:08 AM   Subscribe

We inherited $250,000 a couple years ago. After sitting on it for a couple years, we have decided we would like to give it to international reparations. Please help us figure out how.

  1. We would prefer to give to people who live in parts of the world where the USA should already be paying reparations as a national policy.
  2. We would prefer to give directly to people who live in parts of the world where this money will stretch the farthest.
  3. We know we will probably have to use a nonprofit. We would prefer an organization that is operated by people who are from wherever the money goes.
  4. Give directly is a potential candidate, but we don't like that they require people to have cell phones to receive the money. We'd like to know what else is out there.
  5. We are ok with giving the money to several organizations if that makes the most sense. We are ok with giving it to non-organizations if we can be sure the money would be distributed responsibly.
  6. We don't care if 50 people get $5000 (enough to buy a house) or if 2500 people get $100 (enough to live on for a while). Etc.
  7. Is there anything else related to this question as asked that we should be considering? Good examples: Discussing how exchange rates may reduce the value of our donation; discussing if there's anything we need to know about US taxes; and so forth. Bad example: Discussing how we might need the money someday.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to look into effective altruism. From that site: "Effective altruism is about answering one simple question: how can we use our resources to help others the most? Rather than just doing what feels right, we use evidence and careful analysis to find the very best causes to work on."
posted by JD Sockinger at 11:33 AM on October 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

I believe there are organisations that offer specific advice on this - they’ll talk to you and find out what scale of giving you’re looking at and what your priorities are, and offer advice on how to get the most effect from the money you have, in the areas that are important to you.

If you google philanthropic giving advice and your locality, you should find some. You just need to do due diligence and make sure they’re independent and not connected to a particular charity.
posted by penguin pie at 11:36 AM on October 16, 2019

You'll want to spend some time on the Givewell site. (The front page is pretty glossy, but if you look at their research, they have plenty of in-depth and thoughtful analysis.) Also, the Centre for Effective Altruism.

"an organization that is operated by people who are from wherever the money goes" - that's one reason I give to Camfed.

On the tax side: 1) If you have appreciated assets (such as stocks), you'll want to donate them directly so you don't owe any capital gains taxes. A simple way to do this is through a Donor Advised Fund, but it's not necessary. All organizations I've dealt with have been happy to help you transfer assets directly. 2) You will want to consider how to time the donations over tax years to maximize your tax benefits; every dollar you save in taxes is one more dollar you can donate. Generally, if you don't generally itemize your deductions, you want to donate enough so you get the benefits of itemizing. But generally you can only deduct contributions up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income. So unless you have an AGI of more than $500,000, you'll want to make your donations over multiple tax years. (If you want to make a lot of donations soon, you could donate a little less than half of your AGI by December 31 and the same amount again on January 1.)

BTW, Give Directly does not require recipients to have cell phones. "Do recipients need to have a mobile phone to participate? No. Households need at least a SIM card to participate, and we give SIM cards to households that do not already have one. We also give recipients the option of purchasing a phone from us at bulk rates in order to make it easier to communicate with them. When recipients choose this option we deduct the value of the phone from their transfer. Historically the large majority of recipients in both Kenya and Uganda have chosen to buy a phone." (The impression I get is that in the areas they work in, phones are not a luxury good but an extremely valuable tool.) Whenever I want a warm glow hit, I go to the GiveDirectly blog to see where my money is going.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:03 PM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Making reparations is something we (in the US) should do as a society - it is an attempt to repair the impact of our misdeeds and must be accompanied by a deep cultural and social admission of wrongdoing and a promise or vision for a renewed, just, and fair engagement with harmed peoples into the future. I don't think you as an individual are capable of making reparations and instead are capable of charity only. If you want to continue this path, I'd invite you to use your money to work with organizations that are pushing the US as a society to truly make reparations. Finally, I don't want to contrast and compare harms, but I would wonder why you would concern yourself with reparations and not consider that at the head of the line of harmed groups would be descendants of enslaved peoples from whom we stole labor and humanity for generations, and descendants of peoples whose native lands we stole through dishonored treaties over-and-over again throughout our history.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 12:18 PM on October 16, 2019 [30 favorites]

I am not entirely sure that the prior responses are answering your question, although I would agree with them if the question was how to create the most net good out of one's charitable donation, because I strongly believe in the concept of effective altruism above. That is not, however, what I think you're asking about your donation.

So, to answer that: I don't believe you specifically have an ability right now to directly make payment as reparations.

If you want to achieve that effect, you likely want to do one or both of the following:

(a) Donate in a way that would mimic the effect that reparations would have upon individuals who would be entitled to receive them, if they were given; or

(b) Donate towards causes/campaigns that are working towards the end political goal of official reparations being made for slavery, such as NCOBRA. (By this link I am not recommending or disrecommending them, just noting their existence.)

While I have no idea how to achieve either most effectively, I offer these questions up as a suggestion for future visitors to this thread to answer.
posted by WCityMike at 12:30 PM on October 16, 2019

One more option to consider: supporting a micro-loan program as a way to foster economic development rather than one term cash injections to a smaller pool.
posted by carmicha at 12:33 PM on October 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

[Hey folks, fair to raise the points but let's head off a turn into more philosophical discussion about the nature of reparations and whether giving within the US would be better vs outside the US; OP can update if they want that. But from the post text, OP's asking for concrete suggestions about giving in ways that meet their enumerated points.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:34 PM on October 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

The research on micro-loan programs, including by this year's Nobel economics laureates, suggests it is likely not the best way to foster economic development, although it does have substantial benefits.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:42 PM on October 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Givewell might be a good source of information as you're researching options. But you might be interested or entertained to read the history of their founders' interactions with Metafilter, and note that the people involved are still the leadership of the organization.
posted by beandip at 12:56 PM on October 16, 2019 [10 favorites]

In your other question, you said you are from a farming community and you live in Oregon. You are perhaps familiar with our state's profoundly racist history. Likely you are living on land taken from indigenous people.

There's a movement in Seattle where folks pay rent to the Duwamish tribe.

This kind of thing hits a lot of what you are looking for. Money goes directly to the people impacted with minimal administrative costs.

(And I feel like this works because tribes do have sovereignty.)
posted by bluedaisy at 3:00 PM on October 16, 2019 [10 favorites]

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helps people give away money. I'd contact them.
posted by theora55 at 5:45 PM on October 16, 2019

This is an awesome idea. America really does owe the bulk of its reparations to the descendants of Indigenous people whose land was stolen, and to the descendants of kidnapped and enslaved African people. College funds and scholarships would be cool.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:23 PM on October 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

Microloans to women in third world countries. And yes, your money would go much further given currency conversion.
posted by kinoeye at 8:15 PM on October 16, 2019

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