Sunday, December 03, 2023

A Disgruntled Republican's end-of-year Giving Guide

by Rod Williams, Dec 3, 2023- I recntly completed by end-of-year giving and am posting below a list of organizations to which I contribute and which I think are worthy of support. Also, I am sharing some of my thoughts on giving. This is kind of awkward to share because to discuss my giving is kind of immodest.  I don't want a pat on the back for being charitable but hope that I cause someone else to think about their own giving. 

I am not a wealthy person, but I am retired with a paid for home, don't spend much, don't care about driving a new car, have some savings, and have more disposable income than I ever have had.  I am also old.  I hate to admit it, but I am. The way I figure it, my money will outlive me.  I only have one child and have helped her considerably already and will leave her a decent inheritance, so I am more generous with my giving than ever before. If you are in a similar situation, you may want to think about what you do with your money.  You can't take it with you.

In addition to the list below, I have two individuals who I financially help. One is a tenant who lives in the little rental house I own.  I could rent the house for much more than I do or just sell it.  By keeping this unit of housing affordable, I am providing a home for someone who would be unable to afford paying more for rent. I know something about this person's hardships and challenges, and I know my only charging a modest rent makes a big difference in his life.

The other person is a close friend with a disability whom I help from time to time. When her car breaks or she needs help to keep the utilities form being cut off, I help out.  She is good person and does the very best she can.  I think this personal giving is every bit as important as giving money to raise awareness of a disease or supporting a charity that feeds the homeless.  If you have a family member or an acquaintance who you could help, that may be where your charity should begin. If people helped other people directly there would be less demand for the welfare state. Personal giving like this creates a community bond. Often churches help fellow church members in this way. 

If you look at my list, some may say that this is not charitable giving but much of it is support for political organizations.  To my way of thinking, there is no better use of my money than in helping to conserve  the American Founding.  I want to leave the world a better place than I found it and I want future generations to know the blessings of liberty, justice, individualism, a free-market economy, limited government, and a world not dominated by authoritarian and totalitarian tyrants.  Freedom is the greatest gift we can leave our descendants.  Also, the free market is the greatest mechanism to lift people out of poverty. I do not make a distinction between political giving and charitable giving. 

Unfortunately, sometimes charity does more harm than it does good, both foreign and domestic charity. A good documentary that makes this point is Poverty Inc. Before giving, I ask myself if this organization just perpetuates dependency, or does it respond to a crisis, or support actions that really help people long-term. Sometimes it is hard to know. 

I don't want homeless people freezing on the streets, so I support organizations like The Salvation Army and The Nashville Rescue Mission but do not support The Contributor which really is not much more than a permit to beg. In fact, I favor adopting the policy of Brentwood which prohibits solicitation in the right of way.  I never give money to beggars holding signs on the side of the road. They may be scamming you and I don't want to subsidize bad behavior. I am not trying to pick a fight if you disagree, but this is my view.

I also do not contribute money to organizations that insult my values. For several years, I gave money to an organization that saves places of natural beauty in Tennessee and preserves critical habitats.  I still think they do a worthwhile job doing what they do. However, in one of their email communications a couple years ago, they went off-topic and expressed their support for Black Lives Matter, and I seem to recall that they pledged a commitment to equity and diversity, and social justice.  I support tolerance, equality, and non-discrimination but not modern woke concepts of social justice and equity. I marked them off of my giving list. I am not going to support any organization whose values I do not share. If it is not germane to what the organization does, then it does not seem wise to ostracize some of your supporters.  Their website does not contain that same statement of commitment to BLM and DEI and sticks to explaining their mission.  I may or may not add them back. I am for now, going to skip another year. 

I join some organizations with only the modest membership fee. I am a member of Friends of Fort Negley and Friends of Percy Warner Park, for example. A few months ago, right after it opened, I took my grandson to the new Mill Ridge Park. It has a fantastic playground.  I was going to join the "Friends" group but when I went to their website, this is what I saw: "Our work is guided by an organizational value of the following: Healthy and active living, Inclusion, diversity, culture, shared space, Equitable access to outdoor space and recreation, Environmental protection, nature conservation, Historical reservation, Sustainability, Partnership, Agriculture."  Mabe throwing in the DEI helped them attract more "friends." I chose not to be a friend. 

My giving list changes from year to year.  Sometimes my passion for a cause simply wanes.  My wife died of an Alzheimer's-like condition three years ago and was sick with it for many years. For several years I gave to the Alzheimers organization.  I have stopped. Not because I have had any falling out with the organization but because my focus just changed.  I myself have had cancer last year, but I have not developed any passion for supporting the Cancer Foundation. Giving is a personal thing and to each his own, but I am more motivated by other values than contributing to the awareness of or supporting research for a particular illness.

Much of my giving is political. As explained above, promoting freedom and making the world safe for democracy is as important to me as any other use to which I could put my money.  In the past I used to give to various Republican organizations. In my view, electing Republicans to political office was the best way to preserve the American founding, avoid a financial collapse, and promote prosperity. With many Republicans supporting the big lie of the stolen election and opposing the peaceful transfer of power, I can no longer just blindly support the Republican Party.  I am no longer giving to the RNC or the Republican Governors Fund, or the Senate or House Republican fundraising organizations. I do not want to support Trumpism. I don't want to support people who would cut funding to Ukraine. I don't want to help elect to office people like Marjorie Taylor Green and other Republican conspiracy theorists and nut-jobs, so I have suspended most of my financial support for the Republican Party.  I still give to good candidates.  Durning the last local campaign season I gave contributions to Alice Rolli and several candidates of the Metro Council and contributed to several races across the country. If you routinely support the Republican Party, please stop and ask yourself if the Party still represents your values. 

An organization I supported as late as year before last, which I have now removed from my giving list is The Heritage Foundation.  For many years I held this organization in high esteem.  I probably have been giving to this organization since its founding almost fifty years ago.  Even in my years of poverty, I managed to send the minimum fee for an annual membership. They were a free-market, pro-national defense, anti-communist, limited government think-tank. They had top conservative scholars analyzing public policy issues and issuing position papers.

A couple years ago or so they established a grassroots political wing called Heritage Action. I get the local newsletter called Nashville Sentinel. It is Trumpinista, critical of our policy toward Russia's Putin and support for Ukraine, and flirts with various conspiracy theories. It is sad to see this once great organization descend into Trumpinista populist ignorance. 

Another organization that I supported for many, many years which has gone Trumpinista-populist is The American Conservative Union. They are the organization that puts on the annual CPAC events. Twice I attended CPAC. It was informative and motivational. It is sad to see the change in this once outstanding organization, but the ACU no longer represents my values. 

Some people support museums, or the symphony, or their alma mater. Some may criticize one for supporting local ballet instead of starving children in Africa.  I don't. The world needs culture and beauty too.  I encourage you to follow your heart and give but give some thought to it before writing that check. Make sure your giving represents your values.  Also, there are charlatans that raise a lot of money to live a lavish lifestyle, and little goes to the cause they supposedly support.  A few years back several televangelists were exposed as frauds. A couple good resources for seeing how honest, transparent, and efficient an organization is Charity Navigator and Charity Watch

If you are looking for a place to give, please consider the following.

Rod's End-of-Year Giving List

The Beacon Center is my favorite non-profit and gets the largest single chunk of my charitable giving.  It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing expert empirical research and timely free-market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.  Time and time again, Tennessee is recognized for being one of the most fiscally responsible and economically free states in the union.  Much of the credit for these honors is due to the work of the Beacon Center.  The Beacon Center has worked to ensure the Right to Work by pushing to overturn professional licensure laws that serve no purpose but to keep out the competition. They have worked to prevent local government from banning work-from-home opportunities like recording studios in homes in Music City. They have stopped local government from forcing homeowners to build public sidewalks when they remodel their home. Beacon is responsible for enshrining the protection against being forced to join a union in the State constitution.  Beacon gets much of the credit for the advancement of educational choice in Tennessee.  Beacon produces the annual "Pork Report," highlighting the most egregious examples of government waste in Tennessee.

Nashville Rescue Mission: A Christ-centered community committed to helping the hungry, homeless, and hurting byproviding programs and services that focus on a person’s entire life-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social. We are devoted to restoring the whole person through a Christian approach that helps the homeless and addicted learn how much God loves them and gain the biblical insight they need to lead a productive life in and for Christ.

We provide emergency services that meet immediate and practical need for people experiencing homelessness, hunger, disappointment, and regret. By meeting these most basic and immediate needs, not tied to any expectations, we provide “hope for today” in a nurturing environment that reflects the love of God in tangible ways.

Guests are cared for in a safe, supportive environment where they can find refuge and rest. Once their basic and immediate needs are addressed, case managers work one-on-one with each person to identify next steps, including healthcare and treatment options with a goal of helping them change unhealthy patterns of behavior.

If you or someone you know is in immediate need of food, clothing, or shelter, Nashville Rescue Mission serves three hot meals a day and is open 365 days a year. You are welcome here.


The Mercatus Center: A research center at George Mason University that advances knowledge about how markets solve problems and help us lead happier, healthier, and richer lives. For more than 40 years, Mercatus has supported leading talent and scholarship in the mainline economics tradition, applying rigorous research to real-world concerns. Through our continuing efforts to bridge the gap between theory and practice, we strive to realize a world where markets operate at their full potential to increase abundance, civility, and well-being. Your gift to the Mercatus Center ensures free-market ideas are championed in public policy, the academy, and the broader public discourse. 100% of your donation supports educating tomorrow's academic leaders as well as generating peer-reviewed research on today's most pressing issues.

Doctors without borders: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) translates to Doctors without Borders. We provide medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. Our teams are made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistic and administrative staff - bound together by our charter.  Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality. We are a non-profit, self-governed, member-based organization. MSF was founded in 1971 in Paris by a group of journalists and doctors. Today, we are a worldwide movement of nearly 63,000 people.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee opened its doors in 1978 with commitment from several community leaders. The purpose of the organization was to provide a central distribution center for companies, groups, and individuals who wished to help provide food for hungry people in Middle Tennessee. During my years of working for a non-profit agency, we were a Second Harvest outlet.  This organization provides food, mostly bread, that would otherwise be thrown away, to needy people.   

The Fund for American Studies: (TFAS) is a 501(c)3 educational nonprofit that is changing the world by developing leaders for a free society. Our transformational programs teach the principles of limited government, free-market economics and honorable leadership to students and young professionals in America and around the world.

By offering a portfolio of more than 20 different academic programs, fellowships and seminars, the TFAS Journey helps cultivate future leaders from high school, all the way through to their university studies and professional careers. 

Today, there are more than 42,000 TFAS alumni making the difference in their communities and throughout the world by championing the values essential to the preservation and success of a free society.

Truth in Accounting. Founded in 2002, Truth in Accounting believes truthful accounting is the key for citizens, legislators, and the press to clearly understand the truth about government finances. To be knowledgeable participants in their governments' financial decisions, citizens need accurate and complete financial information. Our work has focused on encouraging public entities to produce financial reports that are comprehensive, clear, and transparent; and informing the public of the importance of truthful accounting.

The Salvation Army has Been Serving Nashville For Over 125 Years Through Much Needed Social Services And Programs. A 90-bed Adult Alcohol and Rehabilitation Center for men was opened in 1900 and served the community for over 100 years. In 1940, The Salvation Army built and opened the “Red Shield” Community Center – rebuilt in 1984 as the Magness-Potter Community Center which offered Army-administered youth and adult leisure activity programs. Now, the community center houses the United Way-sponsored Family Resource Center, the Red Shield Kids Club after-school and summer day camp programs, the Life Skills Learning Center, the Second Harvest Food Pantry, and the Emergency Services Program.  In 1980, the Area Command facility was moved from Demonbreun to Dickerson Pike, receiving the name the “Center of Hope”, and opened a 75-person transient shelter, an emergency shelter for men, and a day and night child care center serving homeless and other families in urgent need. Today, the Center of Hope and the Magness-Potter Community Center, along with the three worship centers, serve Nashville by being strategically placed in the neediest areas of the community. Our services are provided to all of Davidson County, as well as Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman, Williamson, and Sumner Counties. Your donation will directly impact your community.

The Salvation Army has been many things over the years as communities’ needs have changed over the years, but today, the focus of the Nashville Salvation Army is to fight poverty and prevent homelessness in our community through a myriad of comprehensive programs designed to bring a holistic approach to the individual’s or family’s need.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) is an educational, research, and human rights nonprofit organization devoted to commemorating the more than 100 million victims of communism around the world and to pursuing the freedom of those still living under totalitarian regimes.

Institute for Justice: IJ is a nonprofit, public interest law firm. Our mission is to end widespread abuses of government power and secure the constitutional rights that allow all Americans to pursue their dreams. Donations to the Institute for Justice enable us to represent our clients at no cost to them—and to stand with them no matter how long their cases take. And when we win for our clients, we secure precedent that protects the rights of all Americans. IJ’s work is powered by nearly 10,000 supporters from across the country who believe in the Constitution and its ideals. 70% of our funding comes from individuals like you. Please join our fight for freedom and justice today. 

IJ has been involved in several high-profile fights over the years in Nashville. IJ defended a small music studio owner from efforts of the city to take her property by condemnation for no other purpose than to provide room for expansion of a bigger neighbor.  In the pre-ride-share days of Uber and Lyft, IJ defended an innovative entrepreneur who wanted to provide cheaper limo rides. IJ has defended homeowners who wanted to work from home.

The American Enterprise Institute is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world. The work of our scholars and staff advances ideas rooted in our belief in democracy, free enterprise, American strength and global leadership, solidarity with those at the periphery of our society, and a pluralistic, entrepreneurial culture.

The Center Square. The disappearance and decline of journalism concern me.  Nashville went from two daily papers to one newspaper that is only a shadow of its formal self.  While there are lots of people, like me, blogging and sharing opinions, without staff they can seldom break stories.  Journalism needs paid boots on the ground. News, especially local news, most often comes down to shootings, car wrecks, sports, and reposted press releases.  There are far too few outlets looking for scandals and corruption.  The watchdog of democracy has died.

The Center Square is conservative but without the rancor, sensationalism, and conspiratorial mindset of what defines many so-called conservative news sources today. 

"The Center Square was launched in May 2019 to fulfill the need for high-quality statehouse and statewide news across the United States. The focus of our work is state- and local-level government and economic reporting. A taxpayer sensibility distinguishes our work from other coverage of state and local issues. As a result of this approach, our readers are better informed about the focus of state and local government and its cost to the citizens whose tax dollars fund governmental decisions.

The Center Square is staffed by editors and reporters with extensive professional journalism experience. We engage readers with essential news, data and analysis – delivered with velocity, frequency and consistency. We distribute our journalism through three main channels at no cost to our partners or readers: a newswire service to legacy publishers and broadcasters. The Center Square is a project of the 501(c)(3) Franklin News Foundation, headquartered in Chicago."

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Pre-Born! are both organizations that partner with life-affirming pregnancy clinics all across the nation. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, several states where abortion is still legal have become key destinations for vulnerable women seeking abortions. Planned Parenthood is working to place mobile abortion units on the borders of states where abortion is illegal. 

Both of the above-sited organizations provide ultrasound equipment to pro-life pregnancy crisis centers.  Data shows that when an expectant mother sees an ultrasound image of her baby and hears the heartbeat, she most often decides to keep the child.  I don't know which of these organizations is most efficient at what they do, so for now I am supporting both.

National Review Institute. Your support ensures that NRI will continue to preserve and promote the legacy of William F. Buckley Jr. and advance the conservative principles he championed: limited government, free markets, individual liberty, personal responsibility, a strong national defense, and the rule of law. Your philanthropic investment is a vote of confidence in our mission and our methods. 

Foundation of Economic Freedom. FEE's mission is to inspire, educate, and connect future leaders with the economic, ethical, and legal principles of a free society. These principles include: individual liberty, free-market economics, entrepreneurship, private property, high moral character, and limited government. Here are some highlights from 2021: We broke a world record for the largest online economics lecture. We made 95 mainstream media appearances. Our videos received 11 MILLION views and over 1.8 MILLION shares. On TikTok, we went from reaching 65,000 people to over 2 MILLION in just seven months! We reached over 83 MILLION Gen Z online.

Tennessee Eagle Forum: The TN Eagle Forum is a nonprofit organization that supports pro-family and conservative values. 

917 Society: The 917 Society is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization passionate about encouraging young people to
know the rights given to them by the U.S. Constitution as citizens.  As a not-for-profit organization with tax-exempt status, we do not align with, endorse, or support any particular political candidate, organization, party, or platform.  We support our Constitution and the democratic process and encourage civic engagement. Any accolades made in favor of the 917 Society are not solicited politically. The 917 Society provides pocket constitutions free of charge to middle school classrooms across the country. 

Americans for Prosperity Tennessee: AFP’s grassroots, policy, government affairs, communications, political, and education and training capabilities make us the best organization to change the policy landscape in America.

The Pamphleteer: The Pamphleteer is an arts, culture, and politics publication based in Nashville, TN. Corporate and
progressive media dominate the landscape in the state of Tennessee. The word "independent"—typically associated with legacy brands such as the Nashville Scene—means less and less as time goes on. Many of the perspectives from local media outlets you read come from an almost identical perspective, inseparable from the tone and tenor of politics at the federal level. 
The Pamphleteer seeks to reinvigorate local discourse by offering fresh, regional perspectives on local topics. It is our hope that through our work, we can challenge readers to engage more earnestly in local politics and motivate leaders to reach higher and farther in their efforts to make Nashville a world-class city.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization committed to educating the public on issues with significant fiscal policy impact. Our bipartisan leadership comprises some of the nation's leading budget experts, including many past heads of the House and Senate Budget Committees, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Government Accountability Office. 

As an independent source of objective policy analysis, we regularly engage policymakers of both parties and help them develop and analyze proposals to improve the country’s fiscal and economic condition. These efforts have reinforced the Committee’s role as an authoritative voice for fiscal responsibility and an educational resource for policymakers and the general public. We are also a trusted budget watchdog that assists journalists across the country in understanding fiscal developments in Washington.

In 2023, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget sought to educate and engage the public, policymakers, and the media about the major fiscal issues facing our nation from the debt ceiling negotiations and passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act to the looming insolvency of our nation’s trust funds. We also launched US Budget 2024, which seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the presidential campaign by analyzing the total cost and savings from each major candidate’s policy agenda.

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