On Secular Tithing

Wow... How have I not talked about this before?

Let's start with a story, though:

Once upon a time, there was a guy who volunteered some of his time as a mentor at an organization called Youth In Focus.  Youth In Focus, or YIF, as its regulars often call it, is an organization that teaches photography to underprivileged youth in the Seattle area -- to help keep them off the streets, to give them something fun to do, to teach them a marketable trade, and, perhaps most importantly, to help build their self esteem.

Well, one day, this guy found out that because one of the regular donors to YIF had not done their annual donation in a particular year, YIF was going to have to cut half of its program for several quarters.  They'd run 3 classes, instead of 6.  Oy!  This guy was not thrilled with this idea.  So he asked the Executive Director one day: What would it take, financially, to *not* have to run the program at only half capacity? The answer: $10,000.  At first, he tried to get other mentors excited about doing some fundraising with their friends and contacts...  But, for reasons we won't get into in this post, the guy was unsuccessful in getting anywhere close to $10,000 with this tactic.  And that Spring quarter, they ran at half capacity.  For summer, though, they were able to run full steam.  Good thing.  Fall, though, was still on the chopping block.  And this was not OK with this guy -- it was putting him out of a job as a mentor, and putting a whole lot of kids out of having what he perceived as a very useful class.

But what could he do?  He hadn't managed to get enough traction with the other mentors to make the difference.  He wasn't working at the time, and couldn't just donate the funds himself... but...  He did have some money around, and he had an idea for something he could do.  And he did it: He gave YIF a directed matching donation of $5,000, with the expectation that YIF would use that as incentive to raise an additional $5,000, and run the program at full capacity.  And they did raise that extra money, and they did run the program.

But wait, he's out of work, and he has $5,000 to kick around?  How?  Why?

Well, here's the thing.  This guy had started something back when he was working that was the thing that made this all possible.  He was doing a non-religious form of tithing.  Any time he got a paycheck, he would take 10% of the gross amount, and put it in a separate bank account, set up especially for the purpose.  Then, sometimes, he could give some of that money to some philanthropic cause.  Youth In Focus was the lucky recipient of $5,000 from this account.

This story is true.  And, as you've no doubt guessed, that guy was me.  And I want more people to tithe in a secular way.  I'm not alone... for example, the Atheist Activist website describes secular tithing as a way to "offer material support - our money and our time - to organizations that do good by advancing the values that atheists hold dear".  Yeah, sounds about right.  I just want more people to be doing it.

So, in hopes of promoting the idea further, I've created a facebook group.  Not that facebook is the answer, but it was an easy way to get things started.  I call it the World Secular Tithing Society, and I hope you might join.  The idea is to spread this idea, and encourage others to tithe -- to their own accounts, and/or maybe at some point to some non-profit that's specifically set up for the purpose of managing the collection of funds from secular tithers and getting it to charitable organizations that serve secular needs in secular ways.  Perhaps if some of you join the group, you'd be willing to help me create that non-profit, and make this thing a reality?  Or just join... give my posts a "like" now and then, and maybe tell a friend or two.  Or twelve.  Or 10% of your friends.  That might be fitting.

Anyway, one way or another, won't you help out?  Join me in doing this, whether or not you join my group?  I believe the world would be a better place if more of us did secular tithing.  I hope you'll agree.  Thank you for reading.

Addendum: Shortly after writing this post, I got to a message in my inbox that mentioned the Sustainable Path Foundation... which seems to be precisely the sort of thing I'm talking about: a secular organization that pools funding together to solve problems in the world.  Isn't synchronicity fun?

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