I've just finished that dreaded American past time: filing annual income taxes. It wasn't painful, especially because I'll be getting both a federal and state refund.
For the first time this year, I noticed some extra boxes on the CA state tax form. CA gives you the option to give some of your tax refund to agencies you care about - those serving seniors, low-income families, animals, and the environment. I'm sure those boxes have been there before, I've probably just never noticed them.
My CA state tax refund was $645. I decided to give $100 back. $50 went to endangered species, $50 went to feeding hungry families. What a simple and painless process for giving! I'm still getting a generous $545 tax refund, and since the money is already out of my pocket, I don't feel the "sticker shock" of writing a check that size. I'm sure I wouldn't have given to these agencies without this simple option.
You can (rightly) make the argument that this isn't giving, it's more taxes. Fine. You're right. But think about how giving vehicles like this would go a long way toward increasing dollars that flow to worthy causes?
There are other, even better, vehicles that make giving easy. Think about credit cards that give your purchase rewards to good causes. Peter Singer writes about corporations that use an optional giving plan on employee paychecks: 1% of your wages automatically goes toward helping people in poverty. The 1% gift is default, you don't have to sign-up for it, but you can opt out if you choose. Most people don't opt out, and so each employee gives a much higher annual gift to charity than they would if there were asked to write a check once a year.
If we ask for more of these kinds of giving options, imagine the impact. They make giving a more present part of our daily lives, and they get money to people in need.