For Margi and me, one of the greatest joys in our progressive/post-Mormon life has been redirecting our LDS tithing funds to various destinations that we feel deserve support, including:
- Organizations like Women for Women, Heifer International, Smile Train, or Water.org.
- Family, friends, or community members in need of support (i.e., for food, a medical procedure, car repair)
- Teachers of our children who do a particularly good job in a given year (and who are clearly underpaid for their work).
This “New Tithing” (as I’m calling it here) has been incredibly rewarding to us for a number of reasons, including:
- It allows us to give to areas where we feel there is a compelling, pressing need, and where we are more confident that the money will be used to help the poor/needy.
- If done properly (e.g., without expectation of payback), such giving can often help to strengthen relationships with family, friends, and community members.
I’m curious – For those of you who are progressive or Post-Mormon, I am very curious to know:
- To what extent have you chosen to continue paying a form of “New Tithing,”
- What are your favorite “New Tithing” destinations?
- What benefits/joys/blessings have you noted from these efforts?
I look forward to your stories, experiences, and ideas!
My wife and I have been directing our tithing to various locations for about a year now. It’s been AMAZING, to say the least. When we stopped paying the obligatory 1/10 of our gross income (which we define take-home pay) and began paying funds of at least 1/10th of our interest (defined as expendable income) which is very fluid, the decision about what needs and wants are became very stark for us. Do we claim a loan expense? Do we claim food? It allows for the kind of contemplation that can force one to stretch and do more. We are constantly being challenged to do more with our funds, and we may end up eventually giving all of our expendable income as the original law of consecration demands.
Then we started looking at avenues to give. Mostly it’s been to people we know who have needs greater than our own. Sometimes it’s been to random strangers in need we find on the street. We feel that we need to give to both kinds of people. Right now we are looking at donating some money to a women’s shelter. Anywhere where we see people in need is where we give. We make it a matter of prayer.
Since giving this way, we have noticed a closer connection to the people we give. We feel in a way, we are creating more of a Zion community among a few people with which we fellowship. We have noticed more joy in our lives, and we have noticed a greater portion of the Spirit of the Lord, along with other spiritual gifts and manifestations as we have been more “directed” with out tithes and haven’t just mindlessly given to an institution to pay our way to ordinances.
We have also been on the receiving end of tithes, as we’ve been raising funds for fertility treatments for my wife. The most surprising thing is that only a small percentage have come from mainstream active LDS. The rest have come from transitioning Mormons, whether they are progressive secular types, Restorationist types like ourselves, or from friends completely disconnected with religion altogether. I believe that Mormon tithing takes all that people have so that they have very little to give to others at the end of the month.
I think of all the things transitioning Mormons can do, no matter their direction ultimately, that this principle can literally change the world, whether it’s secular existentialism, or a greater religious meaning that fulfills a Law of Zion where there is no poor among us.
Big Agree! I was just discussing this very issue on a thread at ATF. We’ve found so much excitement and joy in choosing how to use our tithes. It’s like an exciting new adventure every month. We’ve donated to close family and friends, personal causes, charities, and even our work places. It’s been fun compromising and supporting. Marriage win!
We plan on making a couple months of the year “Public Service Months” where we will donate to our favorite radio stations, blogs, podcasts, public tv, etc. Sometimes we donate to something super random…like my husband noticed the towels at SLCC were old and dingy and plans on using our $ next month to buy them new ones. I already wrote of this in greater detail on ATF, but we spent 6 months worth of tithes on legal help for our friend who’s been living and working illegally for 30 years in the U.S. and wants to safely travel back to Mexico to see her elderly mother before she dies. She just called me this week, in tears of happiness, to tell me the good news: residency granted.
I’ve been thinking that it would be great to have a Mormon Spectrum group devoted to discussing this very issue: with links to different charities, reviews of charities (like a rotten tomatoes of charities), ideas for giving, and maybe even organize a donation bank where people can (transparently, of course) pool their money and decide how to best use it. Too dangerous maybe? Just my musings. Maybe the group could have some sort of non-profit function and help people set-up their own non-profits and list them as donation options for those who are looking for ideas.
There’s something pretty close to the “Rotten Tomatoes for charities”, called GiveWell. Check out http://www.givewell.org/. They do pretty in-depth research into charities to see which ones have the lowest overhead and alleviate the most suffering per dollar. I’m still working out with my believing wife how we’re going to split LDS tithing vs other charitable donations, but I plan to use GiveWell’s recommendations as a fallback if I don’t see needs in my immediate community.
I love what you described with the towels and the legal help. It’s nice when we can see the effects of what we give.
Instead of tithing I can now afford to pay more of my student loans, so the bulk of the money I used to give in tithing is now going towards that. However, I have enjoyed feeling like I can contribute to local things on a whim, since we have a little extra income. I will purchase groceries from the grocery store for the food bank at Thanksgiving, or we’ll spend a morning choosing toys to give the Lion Club for local children. I’ve also contributed to gofundme accounts and local artists, and find I can be more generous when giving gifts to family and friends. I enjoy not having to be quite as stingy, and being able to give where it is meaningful.
I direct my ex-tithing to homeless shelters and in stocking my trunk with stuff for homeless people I see around town. I started doing this when I noticed that little statement at the bottom of the tithing slip. I am in transition out of the church. I just feel good doing this, you know? I don’t expect anything more than just feeling good and helping someone else feel good, even if it doesn’t solve a ton of other problems.
Such an interesting topic! From a non-religious financial perspective, David Bach explains in his book Automatic Millionaire why its a good idea:
“Tithing is not about following traditions or trying to rid of guilt or hoping for some future reward. What it’s really about is giving for the sheer joy of giving. But here’s something amazing. Although you should give simply for the sake of giving, the reality is that abundance tends to flow back to those who give. The more you give, the more comes back to you. It is the flow of abundance that brings us more joy, more love, more wealth, and more meaning in our lives. Generally speaking, the more you give, the wealthier you feel. And it’s not just a feeling. As strange as it may seem, the truth is that money often flows faster to those who give. Why? Because givers attract abundance into their lives rather than scarcity.”
I’ve pondered a lot about this idea since leaving the church. When I was active it was easy to just cut a check to the church. Now you actually get to choose. Although I’m heart sick about the money I’ve given to the church over the years, I’m empowered by the idea that it is a true principal and I chalk up those donations as practice.
Interestingly we are seeing some people taking this to a whole new level and its no surprise why. Billionaires Monoj Bhargava, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet all pledged 99% of their wealth to charity. I realize their 1% is still more than most of us can comprehend, but still, thats incredible. Mark Z even took it a step further. He donated 99% of his Facebook shares to charity vs cashing out and paying huge taxes. Donating securities is a great way to make your donations go further. All I’m saying is that I bet these billionaires never felt richer than when they gave away 99% of their wealth.
To answer the questions:
1) I’ve donated to causes here and there when I’ve seen them. For me its baby steps. I plan to donate 5% consistently and gradually go up from there.
2) Some non-profits that are doing incredible things that i’ve donated to are Operation Underground Railroad and RODS Racing. Both have incredible beginnings and are making big impacts.
3) I feel a deeper connection and fulness when I give of myself. I feel wealthier. Not a money wealth, but a richness of life. I haven’t been consistent or the model donator, but when I do its been a great experience.
I’ll point out that “new tithing” was something my wife and I started doing even before we fully stopped paying tithing to the church. After reading Rock Waterman’s popular blog post about tithing being on “surplus,” we used the difference between that and what we had been paying before to donate to charitable causes (it felt wrong to just keep that extra money for ourselves). And we self-reported as full tithe payers up to the point where we stopped attending.
We even have a “charitable giving” category in our budgeting app. It makes it so much easier to donate now that the money is just sitting there, waiting for a good cause to come along, whether that takes the form of a homeless person on the street, a work-sponsored fundraiser, or a family on Facebook whose dad died unexpectedly. I feel the need to do research to find charities that will maximize the effectiveness of my contributions, but I think I will always retain a sizable portion of my charitable funds as “miscellaneous.” Spontaneous generosity is a joyful experience, and one that I never want to give up.
I left the church as a teen and rediscovered my Mormon cultural roots upon moving to Colorado. I realized that Mormon thinkers like the Englands, my professors at UVU and several liberal mormon high-school teachers had not been “weirdos” after all. Instead embodied the real values that Mormonism has to share with the world. They were holding onto something beautiful that the rest of the church walked away from a long time ago.
I read the Book of Mormon and found a story that was filled with moral examples of touching generosity and love for my fellow man, especially the people who are loved the least by society. I found a book that taught me that I expected to emulate God’s unending generosity and love for my fellow man, in action and word.
Many of the practices are great and tithing is one of them, I now give 10% of my income to a Kiva account, focusing on loans with low costs to borrowers, and borrowers who want to purchase something that has a value that increases with time (education, medicine, land and infrastructure for agriculture, business materials, etc.) I continue to loan the money in the fund. The money inside of the fund is not touchable for me. In two years as a starving grad student have managed to loan out close to $5,000 dollars in capital. Imagine if we all did something like this? How much more funding would be available for the alleviation of poverty?
That’s what the Bee Hive stands for, the work which would be impossible for one bee or a succession of bees to complete is easy when hundreds of bees work together towards one goal at one time. That is the message that Mormonism as a culture has to share with the world. I’m so glad I can critically and creatively reclaim my culture and heritage, outside of the context of the church, and use it to make the world a better place.
On a side note, I also still do fast offerings but the money goes to the local food bank now, not the bishops storehouse.
Thanks for the awesome post. I’m so glad to see that other people are thinking about this as well. Maybe its time for us to reclaim mormonism and make it a much broader, wider and mature cultural movement than it ever has been before by taking the good and running with it.
My first destination was charitynavigator.org because knowing what charities were doing with their funds empowered me for the first time in my life to pay an honest tithe. I felt the LDS lies made all of my previous donations “dishonest.” After researching that, I settled on Kiva.org. The windows of heaven were finally opened for me and I was blessed, because my tithe was finally an honest one.
“If ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.” That’s my new motto for tithing.
I try to give pay 10% of my paycheck, but I’m splitting it 5% to the church and 5% to other donees. I still don’t feel good about the 5% going to the church, because I’m an auditor by profession. The fact that the church doesn’t publish it’s financials, the salaries of it’s executive officers, etc. raises all kinds of red flags. However, my wife still wants to pay tithing to the church, so we compromise. I still attend church every week too, so I feel like a modest ‘membership fee’ like I would pay for a gym is appropriate (although certainly not 5%!).
I have been giving to GoFundMe campaigns (others’ medical bills), various health-related charities (Crohn’s, cancer), PEN America (yea for freedom of conscience!), and local workers (I live in a country where there are a lot of poor workers from really impoverished places). This month I will donate to political causes I feel strongly about such as the Brady Campaign (reasonable gun control) and whatever presidential candidate seems the most passionate about stopping global warming (most likely Hillary).
I have enjoyed the feeling of empowerment I get from giving where I can see it makes a difference to people and causes that are important to me. I agree it has tightened relationships with people who asked me to give and I gave generously. I don’t say “generously” to brag; I say it because five percent is a lot of money, even when split among several donees. When I was paying all my tithing to the church, I felt I had done my duty for the month. When I gave to other causes, I would feel generous if I gave a few bucks here and there because it was above and beyond. Now, I have all this money at my disposal, and I feel like a big hitter when I give away ten times what I used to. Again, not trying to brag, but I’m putting a lot more into my social network and community than I used to.
It has felt really rewarding. Whereas paying tithing to the church felt only slightly better than paying taxes, directing my tithing to charities and people I really care about brings me a lot of joy.
Nee! I love and miss you, brother!!!
I reinvest it into my own charity now-, my family.
2 stolen years, 25 more years and hundreds of thousands of dollars went to those thieves. My turn to pay off my mortgage and leave something for MY kids.
When I was paying tithing I found myself thinking that the money I was “consecrating to the Lord” could be better used to help meet the basic needs of people who are struggling. This year our family has been making monthly donations to the local food bank and the local homeless shelter. We also feel like we have more means now to contribute to pressing causes in the world, such as the refugee crisis or natural disaster relief. We donate yearly to public radio and also environmental groups who are working to consecrate natural spaces. I love knowing my funds go toward causes that are important to me instead of having to rely on others to direct the funds as they see fit. And I love being able to use charity navigator and get the skinny on any group or organization that I’m interesting in supporting, so I know the money is being used properly. Another way we’ve used some of those funds is to contribute more each month to our children’s education savings.
Even before I completely transitioned out of the church, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to make my charitable giving more meaniful and effective.
More than any other single source, Peter Singer’s work in The Life You Can Save, and The Most Good You Can Do, has changed my thinking and actions.
I direct most of my giving to the organizations reccommended at thelifeyoucansave.org and givewell.org.
I have been tithing free for about 20 years! I have tried everything from big charities to personal charity and while they were nice, I never felt like I was making a lasting difference.
So, a couple of years ago, I started a division at my company to help entrepreneurs in developing countries globalize their offerings. While it is quite expensive, around 400,000 USD in direct costs each year which are not recouped, it has certainly benefited our company, our employees and our industry as a whole in ways that money could never buy. And I feel like I am making a difference in helping citizens of developing countries employ thousands of their fellow citizen with life-long and high paying jobs.
This is an old article, but it is one of my favorite on charity and giving: http://wearethatfamily.com/2014/10/dear-world-lets-stop-giving-our-crap-to-the-poor/
I give to a local charity that provides counseling services to children who are survivors of sexual abuse. I know the organization, see the financials, and I can direct my funds to specific programs. The organization communicates the impact my dollar makes as well as provides other opportunities that I can give in time or in-kind donations. It’s empowering to take responsibility of my personal funds and direct them to areas that I choose. It’s refreshing to give to an organization that is transparent in its finances, no longer reliant on an internal audit department to tell me all is well. I can look at its 990 or annual third-party audit and see where my funds are going. I remember so many Sunday School lessons or Sacrament meeting talks wherein the speaker/teacher would convey their skepticism in regards to other charitable organizations outside the church. I truly hope the LDS Church is doing great things with its resources, but now I can verify that my funds are going to a cause about which I feel passionate.
I donate my money to The Human Society or wildlife rescue centers. I love being able to choose where my money goes.
I’ve been supporting multiple causes but what I’d encourage all of you to do is to actually do service. Come join me in Mexico building a little house for a needy family. In the Church you seldom actually had a party with neighbours and friends without thinking you had to convert everyone. Throw a party and invite friends. I just performed at the Veterans Holiday Celebration doing face painting and strolling magic last Sunday for thousands of veterans. Do more than just writing a check…get some and hearts in experience.
As a member, we often paid tithing and then not paying our credit cards because we didn’t have the money. Even while in church i realized that tithing is easy for the wealthy but a hardship for the poor. It sounds as if it should be just as easy. Until you do the numbers. Now that we are out of the church our total tithing dollars are down as we try to live with illnesses in the family. But spending some money on matters that are important to me/ us makes what we do pay much more joyful. I used to think of tithing as just another bill. Something i ‘had’ to pay, even when i really couldn’t. We have had years where our total family income was in the $20-25 grand area, and we had one child. So i know of which i speak. Nowadays we’ve donated to our local hospital, our local theatre group. I decided that Shelterbox was a very helpful organization that helps those around the world who have suffered the effects of mother nature and lost what they had. I still feel guilty those years when our ‘tithing’ is rather small because we’ve had big expenses- housing or car needs and i can’t donate the amount i’d like to. I’ve learned tho, that taking care of myself and my family is our first responsibility. The church teaches that tithing comes first, even if it means you can’t feed or clothe your own family. That is just wrong. Now that i know that tithing goes to pay 13+ guys and their families to live in a manner i can’t even dream about, i can see why they want to keep the cash coming, even if it means my kids go hungry.
I just made a donation to Youth Futures. http://yfut.org/ I got out of the church a long time ago, and so haven’t paid tithing in a long time, but your post inspired me to be more generous, especially at this time of year.
I love this practice. About 15 years ago, my pondering on the deeper teaching of tithing gave way to a belief that it is one way to practice personal relationship development with God and community in a very practical way. The energy associated with giving to others is something many are familiar with, but communication with Heaven in asking for specific direction on who or where to give can be fairly foreign. An expanded stewardship is actually blocked by any program that says “just give it to us and we’ll take care of it”. The opportunity to commune with God and experience a divine partnership comes when an individual chooses to ask God for direction and follow through. The spiritual development that results from such an exercise is a powerful and beautiful process. I’ve taught my children this idea and each have had incredible tangible experiences with the Divine as they’ve asked for direction with their tithes.
Each Christmas we set aside tithing monies with the intention of inviting Divine Guidance for what is needed. We’ve been able to donate to a missionary in need, purchase 16 tents for homeless youth (most LGBT) as well as donate funds to the local Rape Recovery Center. We don’t have attachment to where our contribution goes or even how it is received, we just ask for direction and respond. It is a rich experience to be in partnership with God and know all is in perfection.