Do Good Better: Tips for Upgrading Your Charity Game

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In the realm of personal finance advice, we tend to focus on the "personal" -- getting your own budget in order, tips for growing your wealth, saving for your down payment, your retirement, your children's education. And in all of those cases, you're no doubt looking to get the biggest bang you can out of your bucks. But of course, not all of your money goals are all about you: American families also donated more than $286 billion to charities in 2017.

If you have a line item in your household budget for charitable giving -- or if your donations are more a matter of giving what you can when you're moved -- you'll doubtless be hoping your contributions there, too, provide maximum bang for the buck. So for this episode of the Motley Fool Answers podcast, hosts Robert Brokamp and Alison Southwick invited in a expert to help explain how to accomplish that: Phil Buchanan, president of The Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count.

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But first, they'll share a "What's Up, Bro?" segment focused on some perils of bad timing.

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To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on May 7, 2019.

Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers! I'm Alison Southwick, and I'm joined, as always, by Robert Brokamp, personal finance expert here at The Motley Fool.

Robert Brokamp: Hi!

Southwick: This week we are welcoming Phil Buchanan into the studio. He heads up The Center for Effective Philanthropy and is the author of Giving Done Right. He's going to talk to us about how to make your giving dollars go farther. All that and more on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.

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Southwick: So, Bro, what's up?

Brokamp: Well, Alison, I've got three things and then maybe one fun fact. I counted two facts. But anyways, it's fun, nonetheless. Let's start with No. 1. Party like it's 1987 again!

Well, it's been quite a year for the stock market. Going through the year, performance in January was the best January since 1987. Then came February -- as it always does after January -- and those were the best first two months of the year since 1991. Then came March. Put those three together and you get the first quarter. We had the best first quarter since 1998. Now we're done with April, a month that saw the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq hit all-time highs.

Look at those first four months and we have the best performance since -- we're back to 1987. In fact, Ryan Detrick of LPL told CNBC that there have only been four years since World War II that had better performances in those first four months. They were 1967, 1975, 1983, and 1987. And for three of those years, the performance of the subsequent six months was about flat. The one outlier was 1987. The market was down 13% thanks mostly to what became known as "Black Monday," that day in October when the Dow dropped 22.6%, but still the market was up for that year.

So put some other numbers on what we have seen so far in 2019. The S&P 500 is up 18% so far this year. The Nasdaq is up 22%. This is all, by the way, as of the end of April. The Nasdaq being up more shows that bigger, techier, growthier stocks are still doing very well. Outperforming the market. Small caps are doing well -- but not quite as well -- up 16%. International stocks up 14% and boring, old bonds up 3%. Not great compared to stocks but still pretty good...

Southwick: Still!

Brokamp: ...for four months' worth of work. So all in all, 2019 has been a great year to be an investor -- so far.

Southwick: See, there we go. There he is. There's my awfulizer.

Brokamp: Thank you! Well, let's get to some more awfulizer then, shall we?

No. 2. The secret to getting ahead is be born at the right time. So a lot of financial success does come down to luck or, in some cases, bad luck. For example, research has established for a while, now, that entering the workforce as a college grad during a time of recession can have lasting effects... effects that last up to 10 to 15 years.

But do those effects last longer? And what if you didn't graduate from college?

Well, a couple of researchers looked at these questions: Hannes Schwandt of Stanford and Till von Wachter of the University of California. The results are pretty depressing, and to quote from their research, "Negative impacts on socioeconomic outcomes persist in the long run. In midlife, recession graduates earned less while working more and they were less likely to be married and more likely to be childless." And then on top of it -- and again, this is a quote from the research -- "...recession graduates had higher death rates when they reached middle age. These mortality increases stemmed mainly from diseases linked to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and eating poorly. In particular, we discovered a significantly higher risk of death from drug overdoses and other so-called 'deaths of despair' among those who left school during a downturn."

It's pretty depressing. Now, obviously this doesn't apply to everybody, and if you enter the workforce during a recession, it doesn't mean you're doomed. For example, my wife and I graduated from college at the end of the 1990-1991 recession. We turned out all right, although my wife did start training for a job as a UPS driver because it was the only job that was available to her.

Southwick: Wow! You could not pay me enough to drive a big truck around D.C.

Brokamp: She eventually ended up not finishing it, because she got another job. Regardless, you're not doomed, but it does explain a couple of things.

First of all, I think it partially explains why many millennials -- particularly the older millennials -- feel a lot of angst, because they came of age either during or after the Great Recession and had more college debt than any previous generation.

But another thing is it validates something we've talked about before on this show in that there is a connection between health and wealth, and it's a two-way street, where if you're experiencing some sort of financial distress, it can lead to basically bad behaviors. Just something to keep in mind.

No. 3 is purple pain. April 21st marked the three-year anniversary of the death of Prince Rogers Nelson, better known as just Prince. Apparently when he was young he didn't like that name. Do you know what he went by as a kid? Skipper. Who would have known? And Prince was his name. His father's stage name was Prince Rogers and he passed it along to his son.

Anyway, as reported by USA Today, despite three years transpiring since Prince's expiring, his estate is still not settled. Why not? A few reasons. First of all, he didn't have a will or an estate plan, and that will always cause delays, confusion, and problems, especially, when as in Prince's case No. 1, you don't have any kids and No. 2, you're very rich. So after he died, up to 700 people came out of the woodwork claiming to either be forgotten descendants like half-siblings. One guy claimed he was Prince's long-lost son.

Eventually it was whittled down to his six siblings. Now the estate is estimated to be worth $200 million to $300 million, but we don't know for sure yet, because it hasn't been officially valued yet -- three years later by the administrators. But we do know that it's a lot less than it was three years ago because the heirs claim that the administrators of the estate have already spent $45 million on legal fees and other expenses. And it's going to go down even more because the estate still hasn't paid the federal estate taxes and the Minnesota estate taxes, which is going to cost the heirs tens of millions of dollars.

And the final complication, here, is that obviously the estate is an ongoing business, because they still have to manage his recordings as well as Paisley Park, which is now a museum. It's not like a normal estate where everyone gets a little bit of something and goes their separate ways. It's an ongoing business, so the heirs have been fighting it out. The lesson, of course, here, is had he had an estate plan, it would have saved his heirs a lot of time and a lot of money. If you don't have an estate plan, go ahead and get one.

Final fun fact. Are you in the middle class?

Southwick: Yes.

Brokamp: That's what most Americans think -- that they're in the middle class. Like 70% of people think they're in the middle class. But a recent article from Fast Company...

Southwick: Depending on how big a middle it is, they could be right. It could be 70% middle and 15% upper. I mean, the math works out. It works out.

Brokamp: It works out. Well, I'll give you, at least according to this Fast Company article, some definitions of the middle class.

Southwick: OK.

Brokamp: According to the Pew Research Center, which came out with a report toward the end of 2018, a middle-income family with three people in the household earns between $45,200 and $135,600.

The Brookings Institution offered a broader range -- $37,000 to $147,000. But a lot of it depends on the size of your household and where you live. So to see how you stack up to other households in the U.S. as well as other households in your state or even in your general area -- like your county -- you can visit the income calculator at PewResearch.org. And that Alison, is what's up.

[...]

Brokamp: When you think of the economy, you likely think about businesses, but our economy is about more than making money. In fact, the nonprofit sector accounts for almost 10% of the U.S. GDP, and it gets a good deal of that funding just from regular people donating money. In fact, according to Patrick Rooney of Indiana University, more Americans give to charity than vote in presidential elections.

Now if you're one of these altruistic souls you may have wondered. How should I evaluate the nonprofits I'm considering and how can I measure the impact they're having? Here to provide some thoughts on those questions is Phil Buchanan, the founding chief executive of The Center for Effective Philanthropy and the author of a new book, Giving Done Right. Phil, welcome to Motley Fool Answers!

Phil Buchanan: Thanks for having me! Happy to be here!

Brokamp: Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up in the world of philanthropy?

Buchanan: I'm not sure, exactly. It's been pointed out to me that I have the right name for it. I was raised by a dad who was totally focused on social activism, so I was always interested in what kind of difference [one makes] in the world. Then I ended up in business school, which probably would have made him cringe, and then at a strategy consulting firm working with big companies. That would have made him cringe even more. He was no longer alive, so I didn't get judged by him.

But I started to think I wanted to try to do something that combines my background and focus on questions like performance assessment with areas in which it's much harder to assess performance -- but maybe even more important. So I began working with The Center for Effective Philanthropy and large institutional foundations that have a lot of resources and the opportunity to do a lot of good. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. Then over the years we've broadened our focus to include individual donors, as well.

Brokamp: As you point out in the book, the nonprofit sector has actually made a lot of contributions to society in a lot of ways that people don't really appreciate...

Buchanan: Absolutely.

Brokamp: ...and in some ways it affects our daily lives. Why don't you give us some examples of some ways -- that maybe people don't appreciate -- our lives have been improved by nonprofits?

Buchanan: There are so many. The fact that you don't worry about your kid getting yellow fever is because The Rockefeller Foundation supported the development of vaccines. Or really mundane improvements to our daily lives that actually save those lives.

[One example is] the white lines on the side of the road -- on the right-hand side that didn't use to be there. People would veer off at night. Then a Connecticut donor -- I think his wife -- had this idea in the late 1950s or early 1960s, if I remember correctly. What if they painted a white line and it [perhaps] would alert people to the fact that they're drifting? They tested it out and it worked.

Brokamp: That was the Dorr Foundation.

Buchanan: That's right.

Brokamp: Dorr was a chemical engineer. He actually worked with Thomas Edison as a teenager. It's kind of interesting because her observation was there's only the one line in the middle. If the weather's bad, people either hug that line...

Buchanan: Exactly.

Brokamp: ...or go too far to the right, causing all these accidents. They funded the painting of white lines. In all the studies, accidents went down considerably, and then they're the ones who funded publicizing this. But it was controversial for years. People didn't do it and then eventually they accepted it and now we all have these things.

Buchanan: Right. Our 911 emergency response system came out of a grant funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. RWJF, I should disclose, also funds the organization I lead. [They also] helped drive down smoking rates in the 1990s -- often taking on the tobacco companies.

The list just goes on and on, and in every community there are often small, community-based organizations working to help the most vulnerable people supported by individual donors, institutional donors, and organizations. [In the book] I write about a place called UTEC in Lowell, Massachusetts that works to recruit the most violent young people out of gang life and get their lives turned around. It's brutally difficult work.

The street workers at UTEC show up at funeral homes, emergency rooms, and jails because that's where they have the best chance of reaching someone. "Actually I want to do something with my life that's a bit different." They get them employed in one of their social enterprises and help get their life on a different path. The recidivism rate is very low. I tell that story in the book. It's an extraordinary story, but actually there are organizations like that in every community supported by a wide range of donors.

Brokamp: Let's say someone listening says, "That's all great news. I would love to support some sort of charity." How does someone go about choosing the right charity for them?

Buchanan: There's no formula. I think people want a formula and there isn't one. It's about figuring out what matters to you. There's a lot of debate about whether all goals are equally worthy. Should you just follow your heart? I think you should use your heart and your head. What are you really passionate about [and] where do you have the opportunity to do good?

There's a guy named Peter Singer, a philosopher at Princeton, who is the father of what's known as "effective altruism." He would argue that it's immoral to give to the museum when a few hundred dollars could significantly improve or even save a life through malaria prevention in a developing country.

I think it's important to wrestle with those questions. I don't agree with him that it's immoral to give to the museum but think about where you can really do good. What's important to you? That might include giving internationally and also locally, which is a big tug for most people. They want to give back in their community.

So figuring out the goal. You're passionate about helping foster kids have better life outcomes. Or you're passionate about the environment and preserving habitats for wildlife. Whatever the issue is, that's the first part. And then, of course, you have to figure out which organizations to support.

Brokamp: And then that comes down to evaluating the various organizations, and that's kind of tricky. It used to be -- and even to a certain degree still is -- that one of the first things people would look at is overhead.

How much of my donation is going toward the CEO's salary and how much is going to the actual beneficiaries? That was very popular for a long time and still is, to a certain degree, but you think that's misguided.

Buchanan: I basically do. Obviously there are examples at the extremes where you would say the budget being allocated in that way just doesn't make any sense. But I think often investment in overhead -- if what we mean by overhead are things like the rent needed to provide the space for the food pantry, or the salaries needed to pay the people you need to attract and retain to do a good job, or technology that might be needed in order to deliver services or programs more effectively -- these are crucial investments an organization makes.

I think if you know enough about an organization to trust them, then you should trust them to allocate their budget. And the question becomes not how they allocate their budget, but what their results are relative to their overall budget. Of course, that's a much tougher question to answer, but I don't think in general that overhead, which actually still is widely used by some of the charity-rating websites, is a particularly good measure.

In fact, a woman named Caroline Fiennes in the U.K. -- a very smart consultant in philanthropy -- did an analysis of a set of international organizations working on things like malaria prevention. She saw a correlation between more overhead and better results in terms of their work, so it should be about results.

Brokamp: When you talk about results, here at The Motley Fool, we're investors, so we might think we're going to go into this with an investing mindset. But that's another situation that you would think could get a little dicey, because you can't really evaluate a business in the same way you evaluate a philanthropy.

Buchanan: Exactly. I do believe that business and nonprofits are different and that giving is not quite like investing. And it's for exactly the reason that you said, Robert, which is that there isn't a universal metric. I mean, you and I can compare our investments by their returns even if they're in completely different industries.

It's not so easy in philanthropy. The right metrics are not the ones that are captured in the financial statements. They're the ones that have to do with the pursuit of the mission and the goals. Even if we were somehow able to know that one nonprofit had contributed significantly or even was solely responsible for improving graduation rates by 10% in a particular city -- and another nonprofit had been responsible for reducing CO2 emissions in a particular city -- an aside is that it's a really hard thing to actually know. What is the contribution of one organization when, in fact, many organizations are usually working on an issue?

But even if you knew that data, what's better? You can't put them into a common unit of measurement, and, of course, sometimes your positive outcome will be my negative outcome. So performance measurement is crucial, but it has to be done in the context of the particular goals and strategies of the particular nonprofit organizations.

Brokamp: In your book you cite many examples of people who are very successful in business. Facebook is an example, and they often think, "If I do this, I then can use my money to improve schools in Newark," as an example.

Buchanan: For instance.

Brokamp: And it often doesn't work out that way.

Buchanan: No, it doesn't. I think particularly in Silicon Valley -- I don't wish to caricature this too much -- but there's a tendency that goes a little bit like this. "I made my money through some breakthrough innovation, and all we need is a breakthrough innovation to disrupt education or disrupt poverty," as if that was as simple as Uber disrupting the taxi business. Not that that was simple, but it was simpler, for sure.

So you see mistakes like those made in Newark. I would say the Gates Foundation has a similarly checkered record in education, where the initial emphasis was to break large high schools into small high schools. That will yield better outcomes. Nope, that didn't work. OK, let's focus on teacher evaluation and teacher effectiveness and tie that to pay. That didn't work. OK, Common Core. That's what we're going to do. Let's see if everyone can adopt a common curriculum and that will lead to great outcomes.

The reality is that these problems defy a single, disruptive intervention because they're so complicated and interconnected, and one way to understand that is to really engage the people who are closer to the ground. The teachers. The parents. The kids. This is a difficult thing for folks with a lot of wealth to do because they reside in a bit of a bubble.

So sometimes in certain areas, like global health, it is a little bit more the case that we know what works and we just need to do it. If we vaccinate people against certain diseases, they won't die of those diseases. A little bit more of a top-down approach can actually work, although it's not easy there, either. But in an area like education, which is so complicated, it's just foolish to think that there is going to be one thing that's going to dramatically alter outcomes.

Brokamp: Obviously there are a lot of good benefits to making donations. I just read an article recently that it actually makes you happier and reduces rates of depression. But some people also like tax benefits.

Buchanan: Correct.

Brokamp: But that's a little dicier, now, because to be able to deduct the contribution, you have to itemize, [and] because of the new tax law the standard deduction is so much higher fewer people are itemizing. There is, I think, some concern that people are going to donate less because of that. Is that true? Do people have that concern? Is there any evidence that that's happening yet?

Buchanan: There is a lot of concern. The data is hard to get your arms around, but in recent years what data is available shows that there's already been a decline in the percentage of households giving. That's due to a decline in sort of everyday givers. That's concerning to begin with.

And then we have the new tax law. Now we don't have the data, yet, on definitive 2018 giving levels, but some early studies suggest that it may have been more like flat -- down in real terms, but flat -- or just a bit up nominally as opposed to pretty healthy growth previously.

Is that because of the change in tax law? It's hard to know for sure. I also think that change will take a little while to play itself out. I think most people doing their taxes for 2018 had no idea what to expect. As they begin to recognize, "Oh, gee, I used to itemize but I didn't this time." It may be that actually it's 2019 and 2020 that we see the effects really play out.

So I think it's really worrisome. There's a lot of critiques that one can make of the way the charitable deduction has been implemented. Why should people have higher tax rates? Get more tax benefits for a contribution of $100? Lots of legitimate questions. But in general, I personally believe that it is a good thing from a policy perspective to incent people to be charitable, because our nonprofit sector in this country is, as we said at the outset, a source of great strength and we want to make sure that we're supporting it.

Brokamp: One strategy the tax experts are recommending is that if the amount you give in a single year isn't enough to be able to result in a deduction, to bunch your contributions so you give two or three years' worth in one year.

Now if you want to do that, but you don't necessarily want to give the money to the charity in that year, one way to do that is through a donor-advised fund.

Buchanan: Exactly.

Brokamp: These things are becoming more and more popular, so I thought maybe we should talk a little bit about those. Why don't you explain what a donor-advised fund is?

Buchanan: You did a good job there. A donor-advised fund could be established at your local community foundation, or there are also national providers. Fidelity Charitable is the biggest. Schwab. Vanguard. It makes things really easy. You put $10,000 -- the minimum range is often as low as $5,000 -- into a donor-advised fund at one of these donor-advised fund providers, and then basically with a click of a button, you can direct your contributions.

You get that deduction when you make the initial contribution to the donor-advised fund, which is technically a nonprofit charitable organization, even though it may take a little while before the gift gets to the operating nonprofits you want to support. This is why there's been a lot of controversy surrounding donor-advised funds and critics who suggest that these funds are just warehousing charitable dollars that should be going to operating nonprofits.

Now, it's actually kind of tricky, because we don't really know what would have otherwise happened. We don't know the counterfactual. So to the extent that donor-advised funds on the higher side are replacing what would have been charitable foundations, it may be that it's actually resulting in more money out the door to operating nonprofits, because DAFs pay out at an average of about 20% a year, whereas most foundations pay out close to the mandated minimum of 5%.

To the extent that the rise in DAFs is replacing what would have otherwise been straight checkbook giving out to an operating nonprofit, then the critics would be right. But to the extent that it is actually making giving more convenient and leading people to give who wouldn't have [given] otherwise or [even] give more; well, then there's that, as well. We really don't know, but my view is that from a donor perspective, a DAF can be a really convenient way to do your giving.

And if you're looking to direct it yourself and you don't need a lot of support, then one of the big gift funds is a good option. If, on the other hand, you really want some support in your community, community foundations are a wonderful and I think underappreciated group of institutions in this country.

There are about 800 of them. They're in most communities with some degree of population, and they have a staff whose job it is to help you think through [what your goals are and, given those goals, what nonprofits are effective]. They can help guide you through that decision-making, which I think is a great benefit. Some community foundations are very well known, and others, I think, are probably underappreciated for all of the value that they can bring to individual donors.

Brokamp: Just as an illustration of how big they've become, Fidelity Charitable now takes in more donations than any charity in the U.S.

Buchanan: Correct.

Brokamp: It surpassed the United Way. Just so people understand the details, you put the money in and you sort of operate it like a 401(k), because you choose the investments and then you eventually decide who gets it and when they get it.

Now some do put limits. I think with Fidelity you have to make a contribution every three years. Each has their own rules, but that is part of the criticism, is that people put money in and then maybe the charities don't see that money for a long time.

Buchanan: Right. Most of the major DAF providers and certainly the bulk of the community foundations, as far as I know, do have policies that prevent you from having a dormant account. I think the question is how that is defined and for how long the money can be there.

There are folks like Ray Madoff, who's a professor at Boston College Law School, who's been campaigning for some kind of limit on DAFs. They have to spend that within 10 years, for example; whereas the community foundation and national gift fund folks say, "What are you talking about? The payout is actually pretty high at 20% plus, and people should have the ability to make these decisions about the lifespan of their DAFs themselves."

Brokamp: What's your take on being asked for money on the spot? My wife is always wondering about this, too. Someone is knocking at your door or you're checking out at the grocery store and they're asking you for that $1. What is the benefit for the company that they're asking me [this for]?

Buchanan: In general, I think it's bad to make decisions with a line of people waiting impatiently behind you.

Southwick: In life. In general. Don't make decisions like that.

Buchanan: Exactly. I encourage people to be thoughtful about their charitable giving. To establish, as we've been talking about, goals and a budget and then not to just be responsive to whoever [has] a clipboard in the Whole Foods parking lot or wherever you are. Because if you just respond, you will look back at the end of the year and the list of contributions you made will have no relation to what you thought your priorities were.

On the other hand, I think we need to be realistic that when your niece says, "Hey, for this school project I'm trying to raise money about X, Y, Z," you're going to give her something because you want to be a good aunt or uncle. Maybe 20% is there for that or the co-worker who's doing the run because they lost their mom to breast cancer. You want to support her. That's great!

But then try to have 80% be about the priorities that you establish at the beginning of the year, and if they are, then you should make those decisions thoughtfully on your timetable with the help and advice that you choose and not with some college student. I had this job at one time standing on the doorstep pressuring you to give. I was pretty good at it, but I don't think the people were necessarily thinking things through.

Southwick: I had the job in college of being the one calling you up asking you to give money.

Buchanan: Yes.

Southwick: Hello, dear alumni!

Brokamp: I did that, too.

Southwick: They always find you. They always find you!

Buchanan: Oh, absolutely!

Southwick: That was my job for a little while in college. I was OK at it.

Brokamp: I'm sure you were. Let's close, here, with some recommended resources. Where can people go to learn more about effective philanthropy and how to evaluate the charities they're considering?

Buchanan: Well, I said this already, but I'll say it again. Your local community foundation is a great resource. If you're wanting to give in your community, that's the resource I would lean on and where I would start.

Southwick: And when you say local community foundation, is that like a specific term? I don't understand what a local community foundation is.

Buchanan: It's in your city. In Washington, D.C. there's the Community Foundation of the Capital Region. There's the Boston Foundation in Boston. There's The Chicago Community Trust. But also in more rural areas. You have the New Hampshire Community Foundation. They're everywhere.

Brokamp: So google your city and "community foundation" and see what comes up.

Buchanan: Yes, and it will pop right up. Then there are a lot of different resources depending on what your focus is. So if, for example, you're someone who is focused on helping poor people in developing countries and things like disease prevention, there's a resource called GiveWell. They do a great job of rigorously analyzing the performance of a small set of organizations that work in that world.

There isn't like a one-stop shop. If you're looking for just resources as to how you think about your giving, there's a relatively new website called GivingCompass.org which was created by the Raikes Foundation. Jeff Raikes is a former Microsoft executive and he ran the Gates Foundation for a while. They've tried to compile resources from a variety of different organizations -- including the one I lead, The Center for Effective Philanthropy, and a bunch of others -- and put them all into one convenient place for individual donors who are looking for resources. Those are a few ideas.

Brokamp: This has been great! Thanks for joining us!

Buchanan: Thanks for having me! I appreciate it!

Brokamp: Again, our guest has been Phil Buchanan, the founding chief executive of The Center for Effective Philanthropy and the author of the recently published book, Giving Done Right.

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Southwick: Fundraising is hard! Ask any nonprofit or charity. Sometimes you have to go to extreme lengths to get donors to pony up, so I have a few fun stories for you guys to figure out, because we're going to put the "fun" back in fundraising.

Brokamp: All right!

Southwick: Do you want to start with an easy one? Yes, you do.

Brokamp: Yes, we do!

Southwick: Let's head to the Tampa Woman's Club and their 2013 Fashionella fundraiser.

Brokamp: Go Bucs! The Tampa Bay Bucs. I'm from Tampa. I can say that.

Southwick: I'm sure these ladies were really big on the Bucs.

Brokamp: Fun fact. The Bucs have a new coach and now the first NFL team in history to have two full-time female coaches.

Southwick: Very nice!

Brokamp: And an assistant coach.

Southwick: So instead of raffling off tickets for a prize, the ladies of the Tampa Woman's Club poured 400 flutes of champagne. One flute would hold a real 1-carat diamond worth $5,000 and the rest would contain fakes, so everyone was able to then pick their glass, and a diamond expert would come around and look at everyone to see who got the real diamond. Where did the real diamond end up?

Brokamp: In somebody's belly.

Southwick: I said this was going to be an easy one. Yes, that's right! It ended up in the large intestine of 80-year-old Miriam Tucker.

Brokamp: Oh, no!

Southwick: As quoted in, "I thought I'd drink a bit of champagne so I didn't have to stick my finger so far into the glass. We were laughing and talking when I realized I swallowed it. What a dumb thing!" Bless her heart! Lucky for Miriam, she had a colonoscopy scheduled in a couple of days...

Brokamp: [Laughs] Oh, boy! Digging for gold!

Southwick: ...and so her doctor was able to extract the diamond and clean it up, and sure enough, she had the real diamond.

Rick Engdahl: That's a pricey polyp!

Southwick: It is! Here's some fun irony. The Miami Herald reported that the Champions for Children was the luncheon beneficiary, and their motto? Protect Our Precious Gems.

These are going to get harder. According to Nonprofit Quarterly, in 2012 a U.K. anti-domestic violence charity put out the call for donations of copies of what book so that they could burn them in a big bonfire as a fundraiser?

Engdahl: Fahrenheit 451.

Brokamp: Mein Kampf?

Southwick: The answer is Fifty Shades of Grey. So the director of Wearside Women in Need said that the book sends a message that domestic violence is sexy. The charity received some backlash about burning books because of fascism, so they opted, instead, to use the book as toilet paper.

Brokamp: Oh, boy!

Southwick: In 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, the Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, PA, started a fundraiser called "Stop the Bop." The school played what song over the PA before class, between periods, and during lunch on repeat in order to annoy the students into donating money to get the music to stop?

Brokamp: "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper.

Engdahl: "The Song that Never Ends."

Southwick: Bro was warmer on that one. It was Hanson's "MMMBop."

Brokamp: Oh, yeah! Of course!

Southwick: I think we need to do this one at The Fool. Like we could hide speakers in the elevators or someplace like that, and make people...I think we can do it.

Engdahl: I think we should do that in mid-August when I'm on vacation.

Southwick: Let's head to Kickstarter, where anyone can raise money for anything, including Zack Danger Brown of Columbus, Ohio. In 2014, he set up a Kickstarter to raise $10 to make potato salad. He ended up raising how much money? The closest without going over.

Engdahl: $100,000.

Brokamp: I'm going to go low then. $1.

Southwick: It was $55,000.

Brokamp: $55,000?

Southwick: Yes. He took the extra money and threw a party called "Potato Stock" with local bands and celebrities. The show was free, and all the proceeds from selling concessions went to end hunger and homelessness in Central Ohio.

Brokamp: How clever!

Southwick: Isn't that nice? Here's my favorite one. Since 2007, Desert Bus for Hope raises money for Child's Play, a charity that donates video games and consoles to children's hospitals. They do this by marathon playing the most boring game ever created called Desert Bus. What famous entertainment duo invented this game in 1995 as a response to critics of the gaming industry?

Brokamp: A famous duo?

Southwick: Known for their pranks, I would say, also. This entertaining duo is known for their pranks.

Engdahl: Penn and Teller?

Southwick: Mm-hmm! You got it!

Brokamp: Uh, Penn and Teller?

Southwick: Yes, you also got it, Bro! Have you heard of this Desert Bus? It's hilarious! So the object of the game, Desert Bus, is that you are driving a bus between Las Vegas and Tucson, Arizona, which takes eight hours. As the driver, you have to keep the bus on the road. You can only go 45 mph. Every now and then, the bus veers off the road, so you've got to keep it on the road. If you veer completely off the road, the game starts over.

You can't pause the game. There are no cheats. There's nothing to see but endless desert road. At around five hours, a bug splatters on the windshield. That's all that happens for five hours. On the return trip, night sets in. Then all you can see are your headlights on the road. Anyway, you get one point for every trip that you make between Tucson and Las Vegas. Oh, it's so good!

The Desert Bus for Hope charity was created by the internet sketch comedy group LoadingReadyRun, and they raised $25,000 their first year. Penn and Teller found out about it and they donated money and also bought them lunch every day. So the amount of time that they play -- they accept donations and then however much money they raise is equivalent to the amount of time that they have to play the game. They've raised over $5 million in the last 10 years of doing this. If you're curious, Desert Bus is available on iOS or Android if you want to play it. And you can also watch it on YouTube. There's like a playthrough on YouTube which is pretty awesome. It's amazing! So Penn and Teller created the game as a response to critics of the gaming industry that the games were too violent and they were making kids violent. They created this game to be like, "Well, here's what games would be like if they were like reality. It's driving a bus eight hours through the desert."

Brokamp: Exciting!

Southwick: That's all I've got! You're both winners! We're all winners!

Brokamp: We're all winners!

Southwick: That's the show! It is edited MMMBopingly by Rick Engdahl. Our email is Answers@Fool.com. Drop us a line! Send us your questions! What else do you want to do? Hey, leave us a review on iTunes! Why not? And summer is practically around the corner, which means you're all going to start vacationing, so don't forget to send us your postcards from the road! Our address is 2000 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314.

Rick, you look like you want to say something.

Engdahl: Postcards from that Desert Road would be really great!

Southwick: Postcards from the Desert Road. Somewhere between Tucson and Las Vegas. For Robert Brokamp , I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!

Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Alison Southwick has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Rick Engdahl owns shares of Facebook. Robert Brokamp, CFP owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.