2020 Year-End Giving

by Fred

Many of us have actually saved money/are better off financially than we might have otherwise been because of Covid…no/limited commute costs, eliminated/reduced housekeeping costs, less clothes buying/dry cleaning, little restaurant dining, no real vacation spending. Perhaps offset by wants or needs brought on by the pandemic to make our nests more comfortable. If you find yourself in this situation, and I realize at least a couple of regulars’ spouses have lost their jobs so I know it’s not universal among us, are you stepping up your charitable giving as we approach the Holiday season, especially to social services agencies like food banks, or adding (more of) them to your list? Or have you been doing more all through 2020?

146 thoughts on “2020 Year-End Giving

  1. We give primarily to our church and then smaller amounts to a few other organizations. Giving increased in March and April but has leveled off. I pre-paid my stylist (and good friend) $500 back in March when she wasn’t able to work. We paid our cleaner for 2.5 months of services not used. We paid our part-time nanny 3 months. I gave money after the riots. We use Shipt for groceries. Back in March and April, I was tipping $100 per order, but now I tip 20%. The few times we have gone out to eat we tip 30%, which is up from 25% before. We didn’t end up with a lot of excess savings this year because we re-directed to work on our house, so we didn’t have a lot of excess this year.

  2. We’ve added donating to food pantries and other groups impacted by the pandemic. My tipping has increased. Something new I’d like to do this year is cut down on Christmas gifts to our kids but give them each an amount to donate to charities of their choice, maybe spread out over 2021. I think they would like that.

  3. Our charitable donations are (1) the one with which I am involved and sit on the board, (2) my alma mater singing group #1, (3) my alma mater singing group #2, (4) DH’s alma mater (general), (5) I also give to my sibling’s nonprofit when pressed, and (6) our local conservation commission. 1-3 and 5 are arts organizations. I haven’t donated anywhere else this year, but I have increased the donations across the board. DH’s view on charitable giving is dim (the property tax exemption is a favorite complaint), but he does see the positive impact from the Cons Com’s work.

  4. I have a bunch of friends who kind of live on the ragged edge. I wind up giving them a bunch of money. The bad news is that it isn’t tax deductible. The good news is that I know directly where it goes.

    Tax deductibly, I give to the local arboretum, my alma mater, and an animal rescue. Over a decade ago we funded an entire damn need-based scholarship at my stepson’s alma mater, kind of to pay them back for the merit scholarships he got. I wasn’t entirely pleased about that whole thing, but it was DH’s idea, so there we go.

  5. It’s funny, because I’m feeling like we’ve already given a lot more and are more stretched, even though that’s probably not true. I think it’s because my “charity” has largely come in the context of supporting the people and businesses we know and like — paying the cleaner when she couldn’t work, buying more stuff from places I like (Chocolat Moderne, I’m looking at you — as is my waistline), eating more takout, leaving bigger tips, using more services like Instacart (with tips), etc. So the kind of daily spending on those sorts of things that I notice is way up, even though costs like vacations are way down.

    I’m going to keep that up with end-of-year stuff — will make my normal contributions to schools and Santa’s Helper, but really I’m likely just to give bigger tips than usual.

  6. We got more involved with a local food pantry. DD volunteered this summer and I was there a few times when they were short on volunteers. We unloaded pallets and packed bags. I also drove some of the bags to a central location or pickup. We increased our donations to organizations like this food pantry. I think it is so sad that I live in a wealthy county, but there are still families that don’t have enough food. I also met some of these families in my own school district when I was more involved with the PTA because we used to donate funds for the extras such as a music instrument rental or school supplies.

    We are also giving more $ to local charities that fundraise for large cancer organizations. I am not sure if the money is getting where I want it to go, but it is hard to turn down a request from local classmates that are doing virtual walks for leukemia or breast cancer. When kids and neighbors ask for a donation…we try to support them.

    I started to give less money to my HS, college and grad school. I still donate money, but I reduced the amount because that isn’t where I want to focus my giving. I would rather give to some of the local organizations that I know can really use the money right now.

  7. Why do you say that, Rhett?

    The vast majority of charities are basically inefficient ineffective do gooder scams focused on feeling good rather than doing good and lining the pockets of their executives. Example #1? The Red Cross.

  8. I honestly hadn’t thought very much about it. I usually give money to my grad school (School of Engineering, specifically), to MSKCC pediatrics, to Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and to WNYC. I probably will increase my amount to WNYC, even over last year’s increase, because I think good local reporting is dying everywhere and needs our help. There are probably other places to give money but Ii don’t have time to research until we make it through the semester.

  9. I agree with Rhett about the large charities. SO much money goes to executives and bureaucracy. I would much rather give to smaller, nimble local charities.

    rhett…it is unrelated, but did you see my post about a week ago about the car that I want to buy???

  10. One thing about effective altruism — it makes you think hard about why you’re giving where you’re giving. If you REALLY want your money to relieve suffering, you’d be sending it all to certain charities that do work in Africa. If you’re sending to your alma mater (or arboretum), then obviously “relieving suffering” or “making the best use of my money” isn’t really one of your goals.

  11. MSKCC pediatrics

    Craig B. Thompson, M.D. President/CEO Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center pay in 20018 $3,077,522. Pay in 2016 $6,700,000. They don’t need your money. They have plenty.

  12. rhett…it is unrelated, but did you see my post about a week ago about the car that I want to buy???

    No!! Which one!?!

    Also you might want to give Industry on HBO a try. It’s about a bunch of interns starting at an investment bank. FYI – It’s very much not for kids.

  13. A variety of approaches here:
    1. I am a life time member of 2 organizations and this year set up a legacy gift for both organizations.
    2. I give annually to both organizations as well and to a local cat rescue group.
    3. Due to pandemic – (a) more donations to the food bank, (b) kept my membership active at the YMCA even though they were closed to help support their efforts to support essential workers, (3) bigger tips all around, and (4) buying more from local businesses.
    4. A friend just began working with the homeless in July and created a new non-profit in the past month or so. She has put out requests for things and I given towards. In some cases she is looking to “things” that can be gently used that I have been able to provide (and the side benefit is I am decluttering) or seem odd – like her request for the plasticware packets (these were accumulating and I was thrilled to be able to pass on 50 of these).
    5. I am supporting a chunk of tuition for a young woman in a program to encourage women and especially young women to run for office.
    6. Not as much this year, but we reserve a bit for all the kids who are fundraising for band, sports, etc. or the one-off group or local need.

  14. We’ve discussed it before, but it’s good to check before giving.

    The best course of action before giving is to check out the charity with one or more of the major charity watchdogs, including the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and CharityWatch.

    Best and Worst Charities for Your Donations
    Important tips to keep in mind in the season of giving

    https://www.consumerreports.org/charities/best-charities-for-your-donations/

    They have a list of best and worst charities.

    I’m suspicious of GoFundMes unless I know the sponsor.

  15. +1 to Rhett’s comment about the Red Cross. I had a friend who lost her house due to the Memorial Day flood in Houston several years ago. The Red Cross wouldn’t help her because they said she made too much money. That was the end of me donating money to the Red Cross. I don’t care what figure is listed on your W-2. If you don’t have a home, you qualify for help in the World According to J-M book.

    We’ve given to the foodbank back home throughout the year because the thought of kids not having access to free lunch at school makes my heart hurt.

  16. DW wanted to donate to Toys for Tots (a new charity on our list) so I researched it. Very low, something like 5%, amount goes to admin. so I was comfortable with it.

  17. I forgot to add –
    7. Every year I participate to adopt a foster child or several in a family for Christmas. This year I am going in with co-workers on this, in the past is was usually something we did with Girl Scouts. Though yesterday we got the “specifics” and I must say that it is a bit Scrooge-ish than the other organizations I worked with. I may do more than one this year for that reason.
    8. I have a friend collecting Christmas trees (fake), ornaments and books for a women’s shelter. The problem this year is getting them to her. Not sure how that will go.

  18. “The vast majority of charities are basically inefficient ineffective do gooder scams focused on feeling good rather than doing good and lining the pockets of their executives. Example #1? The Red Cross.”

    Actually, the vast majority of public charities (the 501(c)(3) groups) have expenditures of less than $500,000; about a third are under $100,000. https://nccs.urban.org/publication/nonprofit-sector-brief-2018#size
    They are the “smaller, nimble local charities” that Lauren describes, and which many of us support because we see firsthand the great work they do.
    I found this list of the top ten charities by private donations. I would not have predicted that Habitat for Humanity was # 8. https://www.forbes.com/lists/top-charities/#450a85005f50

  19. Actually, the vast majority of public charities (the 501(c)(3) groups) have expenditures of less than $500,000; about a third are under $100,000.

    As I said very inefficient.

  20. Scarlett,

    Isn’t it obvious? If it’s not then I don’t think I’ll have any luck convincing you.

  21. I give to charity because I get just as much out of it as I give in. By giving, I find that I’m more generous and that I worry less about money, I have more of an abundance mindset than a scarcity mindset. One of my biggest pet peeves is when others are cheap (note there is a big difference between cheap and frugal). I stopped hanging out with a friend due to how cheap they were (small examples – returning a book they bought at Costco after they read it, because they could; on a shared bill not leaving anything for a tip). I doubt he gives to charity.

  22. “‘Actually, the vast majority of public charities (the 501(c)(3) groups) have expenditures of less than $500,000; about a third are under $100,000.’

    As I said very inefficient.”

    OK, I’m not following. Are you suggesting charities need to be larger to be more efficient? But larger size comes with larger administrative needs and leads to the kind of bloat and salaries you are complaining about. If small charities are too small to be efficient, and the big ones are too big to be efficient, then I can see why you think giving to charity is a waste, but it feels more like a game of “gotcha.”

  23. If small charities are too small to be efficient, and the big ones are too big to be efficient, then I can see why you think giving to charity is a waste,

    Exactly. And at every level the goal is to feel good doing good rather than just doing good as efficiently as possible. That’s also where a lot of inefficient scaminess comes in.

  24. We kept up our academic institution gifts, even though some of that s a hurdle for tickets and we’re not buying tickets to games this year. I do UW because it’s expected. My personal giving goes to an organization (smallish, local and nimble) that I’m on the board and will chair next year. It is fantastic and helps women become financially independent by getting them prepared for living wage jobs, training in financial literacy, etc. DH also gives to a non-profit that he used to serve on the board. We also adopt a family from a local non-profit. My area at work also adopts a family, but upon my last promotion I started taking a large family (3-4 kids) on my own. I love buying these gifts….and whatever happened to leave this family in the position, I know the kids are not responsible for it. And this particular non-profit also is known for having long-term impact on their families. In past years, I would have my boys shop for some of the gifts because I think it helps them to think about others.

    I paid our cleaning crew for 2-3 months after they stopped coming, and just mentioned to DH that we need to send them a nice Christmas check. We’ve done less random giving at silent auction kinds of events/dinners this year. I kind of hate those things so don’t miss attending.

    One last plug – when possible, please support local businesses this year buying your holiday gifts. Small retailers are really struggling. Would anyone enjoy a future topic where we each shared some particular local favorite shops with the group? I know I’ve heard people mention a favorite chocolate shop for instance. In my bid to support local, I would also support further flung “local” businesses.

  25. Sunshine, I think that is a great idea for a post because some of the local shops need more exposure if they are going to survive with online retail.

  26. I am out now and my essay type post just vanished (be grateful, people). I have very strong feelings about this and refuse to get into an attempt to convince Rhett when a) he will just give flip replies and b) I really just want to give him and others who make wide generalizations a spanking for finding excuses not to be generous. I find great efficiencies in small targeted organizations, whether providing local services or with a relationship with an overseas smaller org that does so. I have nothing to do with United Way or Red Cross. More later from home about giving strategies and giving targets.

  27. “And at every level the goal is to feel good doing good rather than just doing good as efficiently as possible.”

    What does doing good as efficiently as possible look like? Not like the Red Cross, and not like the parish food bank.
    That leaves…?


  28. DH’s view on charitable giving is dim

    He’s a very sensible man.”

    Lol.

    No necessarily agreeing, just laughing.

    We give a little to the church,,and a regular deduction for some international organizations that help out kids in poor countries. I’m sure that’s also inefficient, though, and very Christian.

    My wife and kids have been volunteering at the food pantry. My 8 yo speaks fluently about SNAP, SSI, and something with the Dept. of Agriculture and how enrollment in various programs affects what foods recipients can claim.

  29. What does doing good as efficiently as possible look like?

    Think about how we dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly.

    You’re missing the point meme. My objection is to the idea that we can (as an example) solve food insecurity with food banks rather than the more generous provision of public services. Take the covid bailout which cost $2 trillion as example. That’s 20k per American household. We weren’t closing that gap with everyone digging deep to give $200. The scope of our problems is vastly larger than anything charity could hope to ameliorate.

  30. But if you must give to charity, maybe don’t give to a place like MSKCC with it’s $8.5 billion dollar endowment and 3-6 million a year CEO. Maybe think about something like Ronald McDonald House a place for parents who might live 4-5 hours away so they can stay with their kids during treatment.

    https://www.charitynavigator.org/ein/223188156

    Note they rate 100/100.

  31. Rhett, this isn’t about theory, or about the legitimate concern that a preference for private charity and do gooder ism can prevent a nation from stepping up and providing fully for its members. It is about what can I do today within the system under which I live to address unmet needs. Sending a voluntary X0K a year to the government isn’t going to do anything except pay interest on the debt.

  32. “The scope of our problems is vastly larger than anything charity could hope to ameliorate.”

    It’s also beyond the reach of governments at all levels. We’ve spent $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs in the past half-century, and yet the poor are still with us.

    If you truly believe that the government can do a better job than private charities, you are always free to make extra donations with your tax payments.

  33. We’ve spent $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs in the past half-century, and yet the poor are still with us.

    Would you expect that to have reduced the number of people in the US with an IQ below 85? Would you expect it to decrease the number of people with an IQ below 70 who automatically qualify for SSI?

  34. It is about what can I do today within the system under which I live to address unmet needs.

    That is a very valid point.

  35. Rhett, there is no question that overall. MSKCC is very well funded. You only have to see the artwork on the walls to know that.
    However, the money I give is to a dedicated fund that I am not mentioning here because it is identifying, that specifically funds cutting edge treatments, something that MSKCC pediatrics is very good at. Alex’s Lemonade Stand does something similar.
    Pediatric cancer research is way underfunded compared to adult cancer research, mainly because Big Pharma funds most of the adult research. The fact that one of the very successful antibody treatmetns for a kids cancer was funded in its inital stages by a parent group selling cookies is just sad.
    And yes, I know full well that I would be an Even Better Person if I funded anti malaria efforts in Africa with that money. It is something I have grappled with. However, I think that if you are going to give money to charity at all, you are better off funding things you know a lot about, and perhaps are involved with in ways besides giving money. I also happen to know a lot about charities involved with overseas orphanages, and as a result, choose NOT to give them money. I simply don’t know as much about anti malaria charities.

  36. Rhett, RMH will always have my vote as a place to give money. We have given them money, and I have organized and overseen student groups in building software for the NYC one. However, since you are not a lover of MSKCC, you should know that the Manhattan RMH is basically an offshoot of MSKCC .
    I still think they are deserving of money. Local knowledge…

  37. +1 to Rhett’s comment about the Red Cross. I had a friend who lost her house due to the Memorial Day flood in Houston several years ago. The Red Cross wouldn’t help her because they said she made too much money. That was the end of me donating money to the Red Cross. I don’t care what figure is listed on your W-2. If you don’t have a home, you qualify for help in the World According to J-M book.

    About 20 years ago, the Red Cross put up a big photo on their website of a couple who lost their house in a wildfire to solicit donations. However, the Red Cross refused to help out that couple because they had insurance so they didn’t need any help, according to the Red Cross’ logic. That was when I stopped donating to them.

  38. Yeah, I feel happy and experience a lot of peace when I help . I might not have a lot, but you don’t need to have so much to give out. I remember saving the man who was locked out of his house with his family due to rent arrears. I took my savings to pay the debt and did some shopping for him. I was happy that I could help no matter how little it was. Also assisted a lady whose both feet were being cut off to pay the hospital bill. We are yet to buy the wheel chair for her. I believe this will be possible soonest.

  39. Rhett: the problem is it is not an either-or question.

    I can and do vote similarly to you (I assume).

    But doing so does not absolve me of my moral responsibility to do what I can unless and until we have the system that I prefer. People are hurting now. I have the ability to help at least a little bit of that. So if I am going to claim to care about people, I can’t just cast a ballot every four years and say, ok, my work here is done.

    It’s like anything else: you can cry and moan about how everything is unfair and the system is broken, or you can do what you can within the system you have.

    (Or you can be like me and do both. I will never claim not to be a whiner)

  40. I’ve known about Red Cross inefficiencies, so I don’t contribute to them. However, I would not object to them declining help to a family whose losses were covered by insurance. Let me put it this way: I would not want charity going to me if I suffered losses covered by insurance instead of it going to a lower-income family that had losses not covered by insurance. I expect charities to make those kinds of decisions, even if imperfectly. I wouldn’t mind a free hot meal and blanket from Red Cross if I were fleeing from a wildfire, but I may not need my home rebuilt by them.

  41. To Meme’s point about unmet needs. Programs like S-CHIP mostly fill the care gap of kids from families that make too much for MEDICAID but too little to afford coverage on their own. But places like Ronald McDonald House are for even well insured middle class families who don’t have the money for a hotel if the child is going to be in the hospital for weeks or for weeks several times a year and they live many hours away.

  42. DD was active with RMH before the pandemic. She went there with several groups and she did meals there for her own mitzvah project. The one near us is a very special place and I hope that it is the same in their other locations. It is not possible to go inside now and do the large scale cooking that used to be done before the pandemic, but we are able to donate meals from restaurants to RMH.

  43. “I expect charities to make those kinds of decisions, even if imperfectly.”

    Government agencies make these kinds of decisions too. And often extremely imperfectly and incredibly slowly.

  44. There are also a number of people in the peds cancer community who won’t give money to the ACS because they feel the ACS makes a lot of money off ads showing sad little bald kids, but not a lot of that money goes to kids. I don’t totally agree because I think adult cancer needs funding, but there is something a bit exploitative about the bald kid ads
    This is an example, but this is something that has ben discussed extensively on the ped cancer mailing lists for years
    https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2015/12/18/childood-cancer-research-jane-roper

  45. Lauren, those meal cooking projects are really important. I mostly know the Manhattan RMH, and there, the families will be stuck there for months on end, and suffer a lot from feelings of isolation. They are away from their families and other kids, holed up with a kid in a room who is puking nonstop, and spending most of their days sitting in a waiting room in peds, worrying that at any minute, a doctor is going to come out with some bit of bad news. When they see people coming to cook, or with dogs, it makes them feel supported.

  46. And now I feel guilt smugly claiming that I don’t miss those silent auction dinners….since last year one of those was the RMH. I know the person who runs the org in our fair city, and agree, the work they do is very important.

    And yeah, there may be more efficient ways to distribute help. But there are certainly a lot of people that don’t seem to have a functional safety net, so if I can do a bit to make life easier for some, I certainly will. Everyone needs different things….I didn’t need Christmas gifts, but am incredibly thankful the the people and organizations who contributed to the various scholarships that put me through college.

  47. Government agencies make these kinds of decisions too.

    Everyone gets SS and Medicare, that’s the beauty of it.

    Would you prefer a world of commercials like, “Helen is 72 (video of sad little old lady) she needs treatment for ovarian cancer but can’t afford to pay. Won’t you sponsor poor Helen? For as little as $5 a day you can help fund her much needed chemo treatments. Won’t you help Helen today?”

    That would be such a better world. /s

  48. *Everyone* doesn’t get government benefits. There are always eligibility rules and low level government drones who make the call.
    There is a reason that some lawyers make a good living filing appeals of SSI denials.

  49. *Everyone* doesn’t get government benefits.

    Everyone gets SS* and Medicare.

    * yeh yeh 40 quarters

  50. I am going to describe how donor advised funds work for those who may not be familiar. They are becoming more popular with the UMC set, especially those with paid off mortgages, as the cap on state tax deductions and the increase in the standard deduction have made itemized deductions a tax planning event.

    What I transfer to a donor advised fund is a deductible charitable deduction in the year I make it. But I can “advise” that the funds to registered US charities of my choice whenever I want. I also choose the mutual fund(s) in which my transfer is invested. I appointed my daughter as back up “donor advisor” if I am unable to serve and have a charity designated for the balance when I die.

    Brokerage houses offer and manage them, as well as non profit organizations of various sorts that work with a broker. Minimum initial contributions and maintained balances can be very low. Mine is at the same brokerage firm as my broker/advisor. I choose to fund it exclusively with securities – simple paper transfer. I have after tax investments in individual stocks, currently cost basis is 1/3 of FMV, so using appreciated securities for donations is tax efficient. However, cash works too. Every other year I donate 2 years allotment of stock to the donor advised fund. That plus the year’s direct cash donations and my 10k allotment of real estate and state income tax pushes me over the standard deduction threshhold and I itemize. The following year I make a few direct donations to charities, no transfer to the donor advised fund and don’t itemize. But my preferred organizations still get their money because it was previously transferred to the gift fund. In this pandemic year, I have several years’ reserve balance in the fund to make extra disbursements. With all the cruise refunds I put in 3 years worth this year instead of 2.

    There are a few quirks. Minimum check cut by the fund is $250 Some large organizations can link a gift from the Meme Gift Fund to Meme the member with id number 123456. Some cannot. So my local pbs station gets two gifts A small cash donation sufficient to allow me to get free streaming, and another donation of the rest from the fund. You cannot make a gift from the fund that provides any return. Not even a subscription to Opera News that you didn’t ask for. But ticketing priority is okay. Just as it is a pain for smaller orgs to accept gifts of appreciated stock, or they use a clearinghouse and pay a fee, it is also a pain for them to ensure that a donor advised fund doesn’t make a footfault by sending the donor a totebag or a link to a stream that costs a non donor money. Gala tickets, etc are another trap.

    Happy to answer any questions.

  51. What I read a lot about in my area is public/private partnerships. The public assistance is one thing but the ongoing private assistance sort of gets people through longer stretches of time. This is particularly true in areas of housing, helping people find and keep jobs etc. I noticed that the church food bank employs people who may need a record of work history before moving on. The same thing with transitional housing. I give to my church and can directly participate in the volunteer efforts they support. As I said above, they work with the city on many initiatives.

  52. Louise, when I was in college, providing decent housing for low-income people was the field I wanted to work in. After two summer internships, one with a local nonprofit and the other with an organization that was part of a public-private partnership, I decided that the latter was the way to go. I worked at a Mutual Housing Association for a year after I graduated from college. During that time I felt more and more that our function was to help bankers and S&L officers (like the guys I mentioned yesterday) feel less guilty about their “day jobs”, so that in the end we weren’t solving anything.

  53. I have always given to the food pantry, which is really my charity of choice. But this year I am giving up to the matching limit through work. I also donate to my mom’s favorite charity (UMCOR), and I’ve upped that amount as well.

    Beyond that, it’s really just being extra generous with tipping – 30% for dine in, tipping generously for take out (which I did not do pre pandemic).

  54. “ Something new I’d like to do this year is cut down on Christmas gifts to our kids but give them each an amount to donate to charities of their choice, maybe spread out over 2021. I think they would like that.”

    @Kim – I would like that quite a bit! That is what my mom has requested for years now, and I love it. I will usually give her a small gift as well if I see something I know she would like – usually a book or something book related.

  55. Interesting about Red Cross. I had not heard about them denying services to people. Don’t they show up at house fires and provide immediate support, regardless of income? I do agree with Kim that someone needs to be make the hard decisions about who to help and not help, but I always thought of the Red Cross as providing immediate assistance, not long term. That being said, I do not donate to them.

    In the spring and summer we were very generous with donations (more so than ever). I also gave a lot for our 2021 employee giving campaign. And now I’m done for the year (aside from buying wreaths from the Boy Scouts).

  56. Kim,

    I get what you’re saying. On the other hand a quick check says Ronald McDonald House doesn’t consider ability or inability to pay. If you have a sick kid you can stay. If you feel you can afford it would be nice if you could contribute $20/night to your stay.

    To me that makes sense. A 35 year old two income totebag family in Burlington VT* with a seriously ill kid, where one parent has to quit is going to be in some significant financial distress, not even counting the cost of needing to stay over night in Boston for weeks or months at a time. Yeh yeh, they should have bought a smaller house and not gone to Disney. But their kid is dying so maybe we don’t need to get all down into the nitty gritty of all the mistakes they’ve ever made in life.

    So on the one hand I totally get your point, especially about someone asking the Red Cross for a grant if they already have insurance. On the other hand, in the moment that someone’s house burned down, maybe they make $100k a year but had twins and made some poor choices and they don’t have enough money to stay in a hotel till the insurance check comes, cut them some slack.

  57. For those of us who don’t have a local church or religious umbrella organization to which we can give regularly, it takes some leg work to find the sort of charities that deliver the services. My big “no benefit to me even indirectly” amounts go to an doctor founded organization in Portland ME that partners with a group of clinics and hospitals in an underserved region in Northern Haiti, not in the areas well served by international aid organizations. The other is a private organization in my home town that buys are refurbishes distressed multi family properties to provide housing to low income residents, as well as providing ongoing transitional housing assistance. There is town public housing, primarily serving long time resident (i.e. white) elderly and disabled, with a waiting list. The private (lots of govt grants and tax credits in support) apartments are an adjunct to that, serving younger persons, families, and people who need a place to live from which they won’t be immediately evicted when they start to make more money or as in house children grow into adults.

  58. I have volunteered many times at the RMHC through work. In fact, I remember Rhett mocking our meal-making there as a total waste of time and effort that was done only to make my & my employer feel better. That is a charity that I admire very much, but I have not donated cash there – only time & worked on my employer’s behind the scenes work to raise funds.

    @L – You sparked the idea in me that I should add some local arts organizations to my end of year giving list. They are hit so hard this year especially, and I had not thought of that. I need to think/do some research on that. Maybe there is a good charity for supporting the performing artists somewhat directly.

  59. but I have not donated cash there

    That was my point. Perhaps poorly articulated. If they really need the meal prep help, that’s great. If what they really need is cash then perhaps writing checks is a better use of everyone’s time and effort.

  60. Meme — I’m a big fan of donor advised funds even for the wealthy, as an alternative to private foundations. I have dealt with a few people who set up private foundations, and found them to be a big PITA to manage. If you’re Bill and Melinda Gates-level rich, then private foundations make sense, but if you’re just ordinary-rich (like the people I know), then DAFs are the way to go, in my opinion.

  61. Am I wrong? Are there charities out there saying, “We have the money we need. The biggest thing standing in the way of accomplishing our mission is a simple lack of volunteers.” Or is the biggest thing standing in their way always the lack of money?

  62. I like writing checks but as I have gotten older, I don’t discount the volunteer aspect of it, to see for myself. It’s been educational.

  63. “If they really need the meal prep help, that’s great.”
    Yes, they do need the meal prep help, but of course you could write a check and RMH could hire a chef. But what the families really need is the moral support, of knowing people are turning out for them. And not just the meals – the dogs, the clowns, the people who come in to do craft projects – it really helps people who area long ways from home, terrified, and stuck there for months. I think some of the RMHs in other areas have more shortterm people, but the Manhattan one is filled with people who are there for 6 months or more, from parts of the country where they never imagined they would ever set foot in the Big Apple.

    I tend to be skeptical of feel good charity projects – I am on record as hating those college service trips to “do good” in Appalachia, for example – but on this one you are wrong.

  64. I’ve known about Red Cross inefficiencies, so I don’t contribute to them. However, I would not object to them declining help to a family whose losses were covered by insurance. Let me put it this way: I would not want charity going to me if I suffered losses covered by insurance instead of it going to a lower-income family that had losses not covered by insurance. I expect charities to make those kinds of decisions, even if imperfectly. I wouldn’t mind a free hot meal and blanket from Red Cross if I were fleeing from a wildfire, but I may not need my home rebuilt by them.

    Right, but the Red Cross refused to help that couple at all, even with things they needed that weren’t covered by insurance. And then they put a big picture of the couple on their website saying that these were the people the donations would help.

  65. MM,

    I think I recall the program being discussed. The highly compensate employees of a very profitable firm were allowed to take a work day and rather than go to the office they would volunteer for a charity. From Highly Profitable Totebag Employer X’s perspective, each employee’s day costs them say $800 in wages and benefits. Economically they could have given the employee’s time or give economic equivalent of $800. What do you figure RMH needs more, that person’s time or $800?

  66. For those of us who don’t have a local church or religious umbrella organization to which we can give regularly, it takes some leg work to find the sort of charities that deliver the services.

    Every year in November and December the Denver Post runs a daily feature “A season to share” where they highlight small local charities.

  67. For the past several years, we have given our “main” annual donation to an organization that serves people in Charlotte experiencing homeless and extreme poverty, by providing basic services to help them end their homelessness. We plan on increasing our contribution this year, given Covid and the fact that we have not experienced much financial impacted from the pandemic.

    We also increased our donation to our children’s elementary school this year. The teachers and administration have been moving mountains for their students this year. I am so thankful for them.

  68. This year we have donated and/or signed up for memberships to several museums, theatres, and zoos. Not to get too political, but there has been so much talk in the past about people losing jobs (like the coal industry), but no one talks about the arts industry. Not only are they losing money from their typical income stream of admission, but also major funding from corporations are down.

    Oh, and definitely more donations to the elementary school. Quite a few people have pulled their kids from public school, and I have concerns that the lost state funding will have long term effects.

  69. Rhett, our employer matches up to $2500/employee to selected charities and two local charities we like are on the list. One provides professional counseling on a sliding fee scale. The other charity provides a variety of services to the very needy. They posted that they need laundry detergent, with All Free & Clear in small bottles a favorite for clients who visit their laundromat service, so I am dropping off 5 bottles of detergent tomorrow, along with 4 small packages of store brand diapers for the ever-needy diaper closet. Their website says they have 1500 volunteers (I would say regular volunteers is closer to a couple hundred) and I think they have 3 paid employees, at least one of whom is part time, probably $100k overall salary budget for the employees. Services include
    + Dental Referrals/Dental van (there are volunteer dentists who accept referrals from this charity, I think)
    + Durable Medical Equipment
    + Firewood
    + Birthday closet for kid gifts
    + Kitchen Items
    + Newborn Items ​
    + Linens
    + Laundry Services
    + Maternity Clothes
    + Personal Hygiene Items
    + Preschool Clothing
    (There’s a different charity that accepts clothing for school age children.)

    One of my friends who used to be an engineer is now assistant director there and I am confident about the good they are doing. They also partner with public services (DHS, housing assistance, utility assistance) and cross refer with other agencies.

    Another charity that I might give DD’s clothes to posted that they are accepting donations again and need warm winter clothes for children.

    At least in my area, all of these charities need volunteers as well as money to do the work they do, such as chop firewood or organize clothes by size.

  70. Rhett, our employer matches up to $2500/employee to selected charities and two local charities we like are on the list.

    That’s a lot more generous than saying, “You can volunteer on Friday on the clock. While leaving unsaid, “As long as you make up anything you missed on Monday.”

  71. I should clarify that it’s not technically the employer but a foundation created by the founders that matches the employee donations, but still, between the two of us, the approved charities of our choice (can’t be churches and a few other restrictions), get $10k. Since the corporate calendar year is offset two months from the calendar year, we bundle by calendar year.

  72. Unlike most here, we haven’t increased our charitable giving due to the pandemic.

    What we have done is increase our spending at local restaurants; I think we’ve about doubled that. We’ve also moved much of our grocery spending to a local restaurant supplier that has been struggling. We’ve also tried to support local businesses in general (and yes SM, that includes local big box stores).

    Over the last few years, rather than giving a lot to charities, we’ve been spending a lot on the cause of reducing climate change. We bought an electric car, and have spent many thousands on PV panels and batteries. We plan to spend still more next year on adding more panels.

    Does anyone know of a charity that helps low-income families reduce their carbon footprints? E.g., buying them a bunch of LED bulbs to replace incandescents that will also save them money? I’d give to something like that.

  73. “The biggest thing standing in the way of accomplishing our mission is a simple lack of volunteers.”

    Rhett, or anyone else, please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming that Habitat for Humanity needs volunteer labor to build houses. Everything I’ve heard about them says this is a large part of how they’re able to build homes the occupants can afford.

  74. ” donor advised funds”

    Meme, thanks for all the information you’ve posted about this today and previously.

    I plan to open one, perhaps once both kids have their undergrad degrees, or perhaps later depending on what they do after that-, e.g., if DD decides she wants to go to med school, we may wait until after that.

    The plan is to fund it with appreciated stock. We’d start by cleaning up our brokerage accounts, transferring stock received from our parents with no cost basis info, as well as some stock I bought in my 20s that’s been through so many mergers and splits and spinoffs that calculating cost basis would not be easy, since donating the stock would obviate the need to calculate CG. We’d also transfer some stock received as spinoffs that also would be a pain to calculate CG.

  75. Finn,

    I would bet they have more potential volunteers than they have materials/land with which to build homes. But they could certainly be an exception.

  76. Our housing programs are supported by donations. Land is no different. Our financial resources to purchase land are limited, so we rely upon gifts of land to assure the affordability of the houses that we build.

    That would tend to support my theory.

  77. Rhett, OTOH not having to spend on labor makes more of their cash available to buy land and materials. Just because they would like gifts of land doesn’t mean they have a surfeit of volunteer labor.

    My guess is that H4H is always canvassing for donations of land, money, material, and labor.

    I’ve heard that they do sometimes hire contractors to do certain parts of the labor. I’m sure that if that labor was offered for free they would take it.

  78. Rhett, OTOH not having to spend on labor makes more of their cash available to buy land and materials.

    True but that still leaves the number one impediment to their ability to build more homes being the lack of money in the form of cash and real estate.

  79. “Happy to answer any questions.”

    In theory, I could skip the donor advised fund and tell the church and other charities “we want to give you $x per year. But we’re going to give you 3*x this year, and 0 for two years,” right? Assuming that you plan to give continuously to the same organizations.

  80. Milo, you could do that. But other than for capital campaigns where they hit up big donors to build a building or endow something, organizations run on steady cash inflows from committed donors. I recall many years ago you or someone discussing bottled water or can drives at church. Rhett of course said woukdnt it be cheaper to solicit donations and buy pallets of stuff. But the participation and involvement, the breadth of the base of contributors, is part of the process. So memberships and leadership circles and your name in the program or annual report are effective means of keeping you involved. And anyone who can fork over 10K without any sweat every three years is going to end up being asked to do so every year for this special need or this mission. Fidelity has these funds with a 1000 initial contribution. A lot simpler. And the money is invested.

  81. “They posted that they need laundry detergent, with All Free & Clear in small bottles a favorite for clients who visit their laundromat service,”

    It seems to me like it would be more cost effective, and probably more environmentally friendly, to bulk laundry pods in bulk and give their clients as many pods as they need rather than small bottles.

  82. “We weren’t closing that gap with everyone digging deep to give $200. The scope of our problems is vastly larger than anything charity could hope to ameliorate.”

    OTOH, if you pull an RMS and give $200 to family that’s tapped out, you would be making a huge difference for that family.

  83. Milo, besides the issues Mémé raised, a donor advised funds has a lot of advantages to the donor.

    It can make donations of appreciated assets much easier, both for the donor and donee.

    That has tax advantages to the donor, as does being able to lump multiple years’ worth of giving into a single year.

    To one of Mémé’s points, my dad was the treasurer of their church for a number of years. He and my mom made a donation to fund an endowment to cover certain operating expenses with the earnings from the endowment. He said it was an ongoing battle to constantly explain to many of the other church members why they shouldn’t just spend all that money now,

  84. “But places like Ronald McDonald House are for even well insured middle class families who don’t have the money for a hotel if the child is going to be in the hospital for weeks or for weeks several times a year and they live many hours away.”

    I like the RMS approach to giving. It doesn’t need to be to a charity.

    We had a relative who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer shortly after giving birth to her second child (her doctor didn’t want to do a biopsy while she was pregnant).

    She was accepted into a treatment program at a cancer center 3 time zones away, so her husband, kids, and parents rented an apartment there for several months while she was in the program. It was a tough time for them financially, so my parents, sibs, and I all kicked in to help cover their living expenses during that time.

    IDK if RMH was an option for the at the time.

  85. Finn,

    I do have your retirement all mapped out. Part time working as a solar evangelist. Another part time role soliciting the donation of and installing solar for HfH. And, as time permits, arranging the donation of used Nissan Leafs to poor locals would be a nice sideline. I figure an electric car and solar would be a big help to a poor family in HI

  86. Rhett, substitute electric bikes for used Nissan Leafs and that’s something I’ll consider.

    I’d also like to take some classes in behavioral economics, and volunteer to work in the office of a state legislator.

  87. Finn,

    I saw a guy jump on an electric bike the other day. I think it was this kind:

    It looked like a regular bike. But then he zoomed away without peddling. I was like, “Well I’ll be dammed. We’re living in the future.”

  88. Last time I was in NYC, I saw a lot of delivery guys on e-bikes.

    Makes me think that a new business model for eateries might be a kitchen, takeout window, app, and some e-bikes. Instead of wait staff, hire some delivery guys.

  89. During my most recent travel to Japan, I saw a lot of moms ferrying kids around on ebikes. Something like this:

  90. On the hunt for places to donate locally, and the arts, my performer friend who I’ve mentioned here is really worried about his arts center. He will be ok—is finding some other ways to perform and is also a fitness instructor/trainer, but the organization is less certain. When he was appointed exec director in late 2019, it just seemed like such a perfect fit for him and he had tons of ideas. They have a theater, an art gallery, a performance space. I was so excited for him to finally find “home”. If anybody wants to look into it and consider supporting it, email me.

  91. Meme, Finn –

    Thanks, that makes sense.

    With that Fidelity option, is it fairly easy to transfer into a donor advised fund, let’s say 100 shares of appreciated VTCLX from a regular Vanguard brokerage account (current value $18,609) and that means I avoid ever paying the capital gains tax on those shares, AND I deduct the full value of the donation?

  92. A little more than five months after our planned flight to Denmark never left Dulles, we got the $4k refunded to our credit card, including baggage fees. I’m not impressed with the airline dragging their feet on that, and requiring our bank to open a dispute with them. I’m not even entirely sure where this money has come from — airline or credit card.

    But that’s the last of it, so now we’ve got $11k parked in a savings account that had been dormant for more than a decade with $5 or so. That’s our Big Vacation Fund.

    In a different savings account, I’ve started a Next Car Fund, where I sweep some extra money each month, anticipating we’ll have a third driver in just a few years, and our other car is almost 10 years old. I don’t know that, from this point forward, we’re always going to be looking to squeeze every last year and mile of service out of cars (maybe we’ve paid our dues in that arena long enough) so I want to keep funding that account.

  93. I would think the car of the future would be made of a material that would absorb energy, store it in a battery and power the car without charging it for significant amounts of time. I’m not an engineer but that’s how I see it.

  94. Louise, that’s brilliant, especially if it could keep absorbing energy as it drives, so uninterrupted long-distance trips would be possible. I’ve heard bits over the years about glass that has solar energy capabilities, don’t know why it hasn’t become a top seller for all kinds of windows, in cars and buildings.

  95. Also, the math in the emails is consistent, and wrong every time.


    CONTRIBUTE $20 = $220

    CONTRIBUTE $15 = $165

    CONTRIBUTE $10 = $110

    CONTRIBUTE $5 = $55

    CONTRIBUTE ANY AMOUNT

    Please contribute $5 RIGHT NOW to get on the Official Election Defense Fund Donor List and to increase your impact by 1000%.

  96. Rhett — I agree about RMH serving families with less regard for qualifying by income. Temporary housing and transportation is not typically covered by medical insurance* and could put a big dent in almost any family’s budget, especially one already dealing with the other expenses of a serious illness.

    * Although Aflac and similar policies offer supplemental insurance that covers those types of expenses but can have significant limitations.

    Our school counselors used to act as informal go-betweens for families that needed financial help. I’m no longer in contact with them, but occasionally learn about individuals who are in dire financial straits.

  97. Milo – as the president of my church, I know that we have members who group their giving by the tax year. If you tell the church that you are grouping your giving, they can then plan accordingly. I’m sure your church will be happy with whatever and whenever you decide to give.

    This church budget cycle is really tough to budget for with so many unknowns. A lot of our members have switched to online giving, which is great, but the giving trends have changed a lot.

  98. “I’ve heard bits over the years about glass that has solar energy capabilities, don’t know why it hasn’t become a top seller for all kinds of windows, in cars and buildings.”

    One would have to assume cost. And structural/regulatory compliance concerns (eg can you make it in a tempered form for auto glass?).

    So I was thinking more about the efficiency thing overnight, and I think the reality is that no matter how well you design a system, there is always going to be inefficiency built in — not just from the drag of excess administration or whatever, but because at a more fundamental level, we are always going to disagree about how limited resources should be allocated. Like MM’s pediatric-vs-adult-cancer comment, or the arts-vs-homeless-people discussion. Or, in Rhett-world, because no matter how good the system is, there will always be people who slip through the cracks because they don’t have the executive function to manage whatever that system is. So whatever your politics, we are always going to need charity to help around the edges and for the things the government doesn’t prioritize.

    I also don’t know that money really IS necessarily more efficient, because even money has its costs: you need employees to manage it, bank acounts to hold it, accountants to manage tax filings, auditors to make sure no one is stealing it, Boards to figure out how to spend it, employees to do the spending, more Boards and employees to figure out how to raise more of it and then conduct those campaigns, more accountants and lawyers to manage compliance with legal obligations for all those employees, etc. etc. etc. Not sure that’s much different than managing volunteers and donations, other than money takes up less physical space (and doesn’t talk back).

    Is giving money directly the most efficient way to give? I don’t know there, either. Sure, it respects people’s autonomy and allows them to choose what to spend it on. But if you don’t have transportation and need diapers, it would be much more helpful for someone just to give you the damn diapers than to hand you cash or a gift card and let you figure out how to get to the place where the diapers are. And it’s probably more economically efficient, too, if the donator can go to Costco and spend $20 for 100 diapers, whereas you’d need to go to the corner store and spend $20 for 25 diapers. And on a bigger scale, if someone needs a car or housing, it’s much more efficient for them if they can just go somewhere and get a car or an apartment instead of needing to jump through all the hoops to get one themselves. Going back to Rhett’s executive function thesis, sometimes the barriers people face go deeper than a lack of access to money, and so giving them money won’t solve their problems.

  99. OK, the glass battery stuff is fascinating — see for ex https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/environment/a-glass-battery-that-keeps-getting-better.

    But it looks like they’re still working within the confines of a normal battery structure, not, say, whether your winshield glass could power your car. Yet.

    One of DH’s frustrations for a long time — particulary living in ABQ — was why couldn’t a car manufacturer just put solar panels on the top of a car, so the car could recharge itself while parked? At the time, the answer was clearly cost and durability; solar panels were so inefficient that you’d need far more geography than the top of a car to make any difference at all, and they also tended to break pretty easily. But that is also a technology that is advancing rapidly, so who knows what might be feasible in another 20 years?

  100. Back when I was a high schooler in France, I saw tons of bikes with little motors, as well as mopeds. These are not new things. The older ladies always used them because our town was hilly.

    I used to get both delivery sushi and delivery Chinese all the time when I lived in Manhattan, and I noticed that the delivery guys who worked for the Japanese restautants all used light mopeds that were close to being bikes, while the Chinese restaurant delivery guys used these huge non-motorized bikes with chests on the front to hold the delivery food. That was in the 90’s

  101. Laura, yes, that’s where the windows thing has been for several years now. Like I said, I wonder why. It certainly seems do-able to me. Your husband’s idea about solar cells on cars (or busses/trucks—more weight but also more real estate) is one my son has been wondering about. We wonder if anyone is seriously doing anything about it.

  102. Rhett, I can see how the e-bike you posted is a different style than MM’s. Have you not seen either of them before, in Boston or in your travels? Rocky got one a few years ago, and we see them here in our fair city on the Spree.

  103. “Like I said, I wonder why. It certainly seems do-able to me.”

    Elon Musk is working on it. In less than 20 years, his people have figured out how to regularly send rockets into space and bring them back down to land on a freaking bulls-eye in the middle of the ocean, and do it again next month — just because he thought it was cool. So if glass battery tech is not currently on the market, it’s because his people — people who are just as smart and just as educated and just as hard-working as his rocket scientists — haven’t yet been able to figure out how to make it work in a cost-effective and reliable manner.

    If ‘Saac is interested in that sort of stuff, then I’d absolutely encourage him to dive into an electrical or materials engineering program to study it. IMO, our power demands are not going down — we seem to meet every energy advancement with something else that will suck up the extra power we now have — so things like better batteries and more efficient solar cells and all of those things should be a growth industry. What Tesla is doing now with its home power wall is pretty cool, and we’re still ridiculously early in the game.

  104. Laura, nah, at this point he’s really not into tech at all, is just a casual observer like me. He’s much more interested in politics, which probably means a law degree. (But biology continues to interest him.)

  105. SM,

    I’ve seen them before but they were all obviously electric.

    With the new ones, the technology has shrunk to the point you can’t tell it’s electric.

  106. SM, there are many interesting things out there and many interesting routes. If alternative energy is something he’s particularly interested in, he would benefit from taking some science classes in the area so that he can understand the issues involved, even if it doesn’t lead to an engineering major or career path. I mean, if you’re shooting for a career that allows you to pass laws or regulate something, it would be good to have that breadth of knowledge of what that thing actually involves, how it works, what are the factors that affect the decisionmaking, etc.

  107. Milo. Yes. You never pay cap gains tax. It is simplest to set up a donor advised fund at the same brokerage firm where you hold your after tax investments, if they offer one within your parameters. Then the transfer of shares is a journal entry. My brokerage firm has a 25K minimum. I like the fact that the minimum disbursement is 250, so I don’t just reflexively send 25 dollar checks or credit card payments in response to an email or friend request. I give it a little thought. I NEVER contribute to birthday fundraisers or links to go fund me pages just with a click. The only reason I fill in in memory of on the form for memorial donations is to comfort the bereaved.

  108. We will donate to a local organization that gives small financial gifts to people who just need something to get them through e.g. 6 month subway pass, money for new immigration documentation, computer for kid to do school. All the money goes directly to the people so I like that. Then we will donate to Heifer international because those people are always hurting more than we are domestically and then we will find some kind of group that is overlooked right now since so many are focused on food pantries and schools, we may give more to domestic violence shelters and animal rescue.

  109. Rocky, to your comment the other day that cereal is the devil: looking at the past week, I see I’ve eaten a little more protein than my goal (yay!) (goal is 30%—not keto, but more protein than most Americans eat), a little more fat than I should have (sob!) and, logically, I could’ve had more carbs. So for supper I need to either have straight carbs or carbs with a bit of protein, as long as I don’t have any more fat. What could be better than cereal with 1% milk?

  110. Laura, the end of your post is why I will suggest he take a few biology classes in college. I’ve heard some lawyers work with regulatory stuff in that area ;) But I will not push him to do the kind of tech he doesn’t enjoy.

    Rhett, yes, I’m familiar. My question was because I’m surprised you apparently aren’t. We see the newer ones here much more frequently than the kind you just posted, although there are still plenty of Vespa-style “scooters” that do delivery.

    https://images.app.goo.gl/vgwEo31ArAcL6QHK8

    Now I’m going to go figure out how to communicate, because I’m apparently not doing it right.

  111. SM,

    I think, for whatever reason, electric skateboards are much more popular than electric bikes. I see a ton of these:

    I had no idea they were so expensive. Between $1,000 and $2,000 dollars.

    Also a ton of these:

    Which are controlled with a wireless device you hold in your hand.

  112. Rhett, huh. We haven’t seen the top one. Might’ve seen the bottom one in Tampa. We saw the silly “hoverboards” there for sure, but generally not used as serious transportation methods. We did see kids riding skateboards, particularly longboards, to school.

  113. When I was growing up, you could get a moped license at a younger age (I may be misremembering that it was 12 – maybe WCE can correct me), so they were a hot thing in junior high.

    The e-bikes of today are nothing like those gas-powered mopeds of the late 80’s.

    Our local bike share is upping the number of ebikes everyday. They are really slick, smooth and quiet. There is an upcharge for the e-bike over and above the annual membership fee or flat rental fee.

  114. The e-bikes of today are nothing like those gas-powered mopeds of the late 80’s.

    Agreed. I was surprised to see Mooshi lump them together, given how insistent she has been in the past on differentiating between programs and apps, a distinction that most people experience only as a question of the device on which they’re running something. I think the industry itself is becoming less picky about how it uses those words.

  115. “The e-bikes of today are nothing like those gas-powered mopeds of the late 80’s.”

    But the gas-powered mopeds of today have a lot in common with those of the late 80s.

    Mopeds are very common here, and IMO for good reason. They are a relatively cheap mode of transportation, without the schedule and route restrictions of mass transit, and easier to park than cars.

    However, they are also very unpopular with non-users, because of the noise. TMK, they also emit a lot of pollution.

    E-bikes could fill the transportation niche of mopeds more quietly, and more cleanly for many sources of electricity.

  116. “They are a relatively cheap mode of transportation, without the schedule and route restrictions of mass transit, and easier to park than cars.”

    Agreed. But the riding experience and noise level is very different from the old gas powered ones. (And I’m not thinking of Vespa-type scooters – true mopeds with pedals.)

  117. “if it could keep absorbing energy as it drives, so uninterrupted long-distance trips would be possible.”

    From where would it absorb the energy?

    TMK, the amount of light energy, i.e., what PV panels capture, is not as much as it takes to propel a car. Toyota used to offer a PV option on the Prius, and my recollection is that added very little to its electric range. The link L posted indicates the solar roof would add 15 miles of range per day.

    Google ‘world solar challenge’ images to get an idea of what it takes to have fully solar-powered long-distance trips.

    OTOH, 15 miles per day would cover some people’s commutes. And there are other sources of energy, e.g., heat, that could theoretically be converted to kinetic energy.

  118. Finn, please keep in mind that many parts of the country have ICE on the ground for a lot of the year, making e-bikes dangerous and far less useful. Also you seem to think that 80-year-olds are going to be biking around, but balance declines as you age and bicycling injuries can be severe.

  119. “But the riding experience and noise level is very different from the old gas powered ones.”

    I think there’s a small subset of moped riders that ride them for the riding experience. I believe most moped riders use them because they’re practical transportation, at least from their perspective.

  120. “many parts of the country have ICE on the ground for a lot of the year, making e-bikes dangerous ”

    I get your point. I believe you’ve made it before.

    However, IME ice on the ground also makes cars dangerous. E-bikes on ice pose much less danger to others in the vicinity than cars on ice.

    I’m not saying replace all cars with e-bikes. But I think they can better fill the much of moped niche than mopeds, and also be a practical alternative for wannabe cyclists who are limited by physical distance, hills, lack of strength/conditioning, etc.

    And for people living where there’s ice on the ground for part of the year, there’s still the part of the year without ice on the ground, which I would think would be increasing as a portion of the year.

  121. However, IME ice on the ground also makes cars dangerous. E-bikes on ice pose much less danger to others in the vicinity than cars on ice.

    The interior of cars is warm. This is a big difference.

    Also, the snowplows push the snow and ice into the bike lanes, making it passable for cars and impassable for bikes. I know you’re going to say “just change that”, but dude, until you live someplace where it’s 4 degrees Fahrenheit and pitch black at 6AM, you really have no clue about how incorrect you are that cars are more dangerous for anyone than bikes are.

  122. Let’s suppose you have the green light and you’re crossing a street, which is icy.

    Someone approaches the intersection in the perpendicular direction, taps the brakes for the red light, and loses traction because of the ice, and is sliding on the ice toward you, unable to stop.

    Which would pose a greater danger to you– an approaching person on a bike, or in a car?

  123. “I’ve heard bits over the years about glass that has solar energy capabilities, don’t know why it hasn’t become a top seller for all kinds of windows, in cars and buildings.”

    Windows are usually vertical, so most of the time, any direct sunlight will hit them at an angle far from normal. Around midday, when sunlight is most intense, the angle of incidence will be very high, and most of the light will be reflected off the surface of the glass.

  124. “Which would pose a greater danger to you– an approaching person on a bike, or in a car?”

    In an area where the roads are windy, the most dangerous approach is the car that has crossed the center line to pass a cyclist on a curvy road. I’m all for biking, but the cyclists on the Blue Ridge Parkway and other windy roads terrify me. I have never been to Hawaii. Maybe the roads are straight there like they are in the midwest.

  125. I will not bike anywhere that I’m sharing the road with cars. Not bicycle, not e-bike, not moped. (Well, I made an exception for Bermuda, but all the tourists ride scooters there.)

    I can name too many people (Totebaggy people, too) who have been killed after being hit by cars.

  126. Rocky, dude, I live in a place where it is pitch black and barely above freezing at 6 am, pitch black at 7 am, and pitch black and raining and in the 40s at 5pm. There are cars, busses, and trains available, and yet some people still commute by bike. Not as many as in summer, for sure, but it is by no means unusual to see bicyclists in some parts of town in the dead of winter.

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