Help me decide on a charity to put in my will
March 11, 2021 5:53 AM   Subscribe

I've decided to leave half my money to charity. This will be in the form of real estate. How do I choose? Which criteria matter?

These are my thoughts:
- should probably be local (I live in Luxembourg) as it will be easier for them to sell (or use) the property. Maybe still be worth the hassle to them intra-EU?
- makes most sense to leave it all to a single org for the same reason.
- a local branch of a large international charity sounds reasonable, but then we're limited to the usual suspects.
- OTOH, it would make a bigger difference to a smaller org (buuut would this achieve the biggest bang for the buck for the cause?)
- but bigger / more boring is also more "stable". I don't wanna have to change my will every few years if a charity folds.

If you have specific recommendations, I'm all ears! Causes I care about: environment/climate change, human / migrant rights, LGBTQ+ rights, women's rights / violence against women, antiracism, animal rights... I could go on. You get the idea.
What cause is most urgent/deserving/efficient? Climate change clearly most important... but I'm of the "it's kinda already too late / a lost cause" persuasion. Is that too defeatist?

Thank you!!!
posted by ClarissaWAM to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'll let others suggest local organizations that might work for you, but if there are enough similarities in US and Luxembourger estate laws, you can consider what I did when I had the same question.

I gave my executor some leeway in choosing from three orgs I support now, but with the ability to redirect the money if those orgs no longer exist, while ensuring the money still goes toward the overall causes and efforts I want to support. So there's some oversight on them acting in accordance with your wishes and some flexibility to disburse money in a way that makes sense when the will is actually executed.

Also, in the US it's possible to add official memos to your will without opening the whole thing up for a re-write. So there have been some things I've put into memos, which I have changed and updated every few years, without much hassle or expense.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:15 AM on March 11, 2021

So if you want to benefit the environment/wildlife/nature, you may be better off leaving the land to specifically NOT be sold or developed.

The general way to do that is through a land trust, in this case a conservation land trust would be the type of organization to look for. Here's an organization in the US that you can look at for relevant information to see if this type of gift interests you. I would assume/hope there are similar organizations in your area.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:39 AM on March 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Reading about Effective Altruism may help you decide. "Effective altruism is about answering one simple question: how can we use our resources to help others the most?" Note that this will not give you "the correct answer," because the definition of "most" will depend on your personal interests and goals, but it may help you choose your best answer.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:45 AM on March 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Addenda: the property in question is currently an appartment. Even if a house is added (after my mother dies), I will never own the kind of land that can be left undeveloped. Also for tax reasons it would make very little sense to donate to, say, a US-based org.

Thanks for reminding me about effective altruism, I had meant to read up about that. Amnesty and MSF are obvious candidates I may fall back on if all else fails, haha.

Thank you for the replies so far!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:05 AM on March 11, 2021

Along the lines of effective altruism, you might want to check the % of your donation goes to head-office, junkets, fund-raising, salaries and how much to 'boots on the ground' [4x4s on the ground is not the same thing].
posted by BobTheScientist at 8:16 AM on March 11, 2021

Best answer: There's an org in Portland, OR that owns the land under houses so that the houses themselves can be bought by people more affordably. Is Luxembourg expensive to live in? Maybe they have the same sort of org.
posted by aniola at 8:19 AM on March 11, 2021

I only just recently found out from some not-for-profit customers (in the US) that many fundraising departments have entire development programs around "legacy gifts" (so that's clearly also a concept in the UK, based on that link), where they will help you set up whatever needs to happen legally, and that sounds like one way to whittle down your candidates to choose an org that's prepared to deal effectively with posthumous donations.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2021

Best answer: About thirty years ago, I saw the Dalai Llama speak. There was then a period where he took questions submitted by audience members beforehand. One person had asked "What is the most important thing for human beings to be trying to do at this time?" more or less. He did not understand and asked for the question to be repeated. Then he paused a while and said: " should I know that? There are so many things that need to be done" and then talked a bit more on this, I think mostly about trying to practice compassion and work for peace in general.

This impressed me to the point that hey, I still remember it. There isn't a most important thing, there are many important things. It's OK to occupy a position and choose what is important to you. It's OK to give your money to cancer research instead of sustainable agriculture, if you want to help that way. The main thing is to do something.
posted by thelonius at 8:30 AM on March 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If it's an apartment, I would see if there's a local organization that could use it for housing women leaving abusive or violent relationships.
posted by Threeve at 8:40 AM on March 11, 2021 [7 favorites]

Nearby France and Belgium both did tremendous harm as colonizers in the Caribbean and Africa. If your family has any roots in those nations, maybe there's a charity that can contribute some kind of reparation in a country like Congo or Haiti?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:01 AM on March 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You mention it as a factor in your question, but it doesn't make sense to think about "urgency" as a factor here unless you left some critical information out of your post. If you're now in your 40s and not terminally ill the charity will likely not get this property for another 40, 50, or even 60 years. What will the state of something like, e.g., climate change be then? Likely unrecognizably different. Consider a cause that is general enough and non-urgent enough that they'll benefit from your money even if they don't get it until far in the future.
posted by phoenixy at 10:44 AM on March 11, 2021

Response by poster: Hm, phoenixy, you make a good point. Tho maybe I should've used a different term... I suspect climate (and climate refugees...) will still be an issue even in many decades, tho yes, perhaps the focus will have shifted. But following your logic I will likely end up with sth like MSF. Maybe that's okay.

My family has no ties to France of Belgium. I think personally I feel more drawn towards doing something to counteract the EU's deplorable refugee policy. But that's also something that may change in future years or decades.

Real estate in Lux is insanely expensive, yes. I will look into affordable housing charities.

Much to think about, thank you all!!
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:47 PM on March 11, 2021

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