Community Resources: Civic Responsibility
July 12, 2021
Today's youth bear a heightened burden of civic responsibility. As they face a myriad of complex issues, including climate change, unemployment, wealth disparities, student loan debt, and high healthcare costs, it is understandable that trying to choose the right resources to support the causes and interests they value most is a tremendous challenge.
Civic responsibility may not seem like the first priority for youth who have recently graduated and are in the early stages of adulthood. But starting and continuing acts civic responsibility can help youth advocate for themselves and their future. In fact, one single act of advocacy from just one individual has the capability to empower many others. While there are various different ways to do this, one of the most significant ways to make an impact in your community is by supporting political candidates and charitable organizations through financial contributions. Below are a few tactics to help youth effectively navigate our complex and digitized world to play an active part in their community.
If you are interested in volunteering for a non-profit, a private or city volunteering page is a great place to search. This is the best way to choose reliable, transparent organizations and avoid common scams that take advantage of individuals’ giving tendencies. Do research before donating. You will want to know where your money is heading. Make sure to find out as much as you can about the organization to ensure that your money is going towards a worthy cause. Start by checking that the advocacy group is real and verifying the name belongs to an organization licensed with your state's attorney general. A real organization should be listed on the attorney general's web page, which will also have a list of any complaints others might have lodged against those organizations.
Some seedier organizations may employ “high pressure tactics” to get you to do something you're not comfortable with, such as spending a larger amount of money than you're prepared to give, or promising returns on your donation. One way to protect yourself from exploitation is by paying with either checks or credit card, rather than with cash, as this leaves evidence to use in case of fraud. The Better Business Bureau is an invaluable resource to see how large charities use their funds and identify if their values align with yours and if those organizations have any questionable business practices.
If you want to consider taking a more direct approach to supporting your favorite causes, you can donate to political groups and candidates to influence public policy. Your financial contributions have the potential to aid both political campaigns and reduce the financial burden of setting up voting areas, which increases youth accessibility to voting. An individual donor can make a financial contribution through the following means: a candidate committee, a separated segregated fund (SSF), a kind of political action committee (PAC) sponsored by an organization or a labor union, and nonconnected political action committees, and Super PACs.
While long-term commitment to an advocacy group is usually recommended by these groups, it can also be beneficial to reevaluate your interests to make sure that an organization or political group is still a good match for you. Look through an organization’s causes, goals, and history to make sure that they fit your priorities.
Unfortunately, we as youth often hear fellow peers waiting for the right age and time to start giving. Luckily, donating does not require a large income, financial stability, or even a large time commitment. According to multi-millionaire and personal finance guru Dave Ramsey, giving means “donating to charities, supporting worthy causes—even if you’re in debt. It may sound illogical, but it’s actually legit”. (Ramsey Solutions, 2021). Youth do not have to delay the feeling of personal satisfaction and pride of having donated to their favorite causes simply because of their young age.
The feeling of personal pride that follows is just one incentive to donate; giving to 501(c)3 charitable organizations also qualifies you for federal tax deductions. It can be useful for future recollection to keep track of your donations by saving bank records and other written communications. This is why using either credit or check is ideal, as it creates something for your tax records, even if you don't have to submit those documents with your regular tax returns. (2021). The Internal Revenue Service is a great place to look to learn further information regarding “tax tips for donors”.
There is no better time to get started being active and engaged in your community. Take a second to look at your budget. It’s okay to start small. Take a second to review these tips on charity donations. Then, choose from your favorite interests and causes, and give. That’s all there is to it!
Federal Election Commission. (n.d.). Understanding ways to support federal candidates. FEC.gov. https://www.fec.gov/introduction-campaign-finance/understanding-ways-support-federal-candidates/.
IRS. (2021, March 19). Charitable Contributions. Internal Revenue Service. https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-contributions.
Maldonado, C. (2018, July 10). Charity Donating Tips. CharityWatch. https://www.charitywatch.org/charity-donating-tips.
Ramsey Solutions. (2021, March 1). Budget Percentages. Ramsey Solutions. https://www.ramseysolutions.com/budgeting/budget-percentages.
USA.gov. (2021, March 23). Donating to Charity. USAGov. https://www.usa.gov/donate-to-charity.