Trail Financial Planning, LLC is a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm located in Bellingham, WA

Pain in Ukraine part 1: Giving

Pain in Ukraine part 1: Giving

I am deeply saddened by the pain being inflicted on the Ukrainian people due to the Russian invasion.  The news is harrowing, yet compelling.  I can’t look away from the news feeds of tragedy, but also of courage and resilience.  This blogpost is the first in a mini-blog series about personal financial issues you may want to consider as related to the Ukraine situation.  In part 1 (this post), I will share my thoughts on giving, as I am inspired to up my financial giving as a result of what I see.  In future posts I will address personal risk/security, and the investment markets.


I want to do something.  The most obvious, and simple way to do so, is to give money.  However, in the enormity of the tragedy, I encounter a feeling of paralysis – what can I actually do?  Where is the best place for me to donate?  What about all of the other causes and people around the world and here at home who could still use assistance?  Should I ignore them while focusing on the loudest current need?  

If you have similar questions, there are sites you can turn to that use data and financial information to report on the “efficiency” of a charitable giving.  Here are two that I find useful:

Charity Navigator


Charity Navigator is a useful site to review the effectiveness of charitable organizations.  Charity Navigators collects data on 1.6 million charitable organizations and gives a score on 160,000 of those.  The mission of Charity Navigator is to “make impactful giving easier for all.”  They rank charities based on two dimensions:  Financial Efficiency and Accountability & Transparency.  I like the methodology – a focus on what is going on under the hood rather than what the charitable vehicle looks like.  On the home page of Charitable Navigator is a block titled, “Ukrainian-Russian Crisis” with a link to 31 different charities working in the space.  



Givewell supplies lists of top-rated charitable organizations, as well as running their own conduit for giving through the “Maximum Impact Fund.”  Givewell uses a lens of “saving or improving lives the most per dollar” in its analysis and assessments.  The website is filled with bits of commentary like “$4,500 per life saved.”  Since needs and costs of living (and therefore saving a life) tend to be much lower outside of the US, most of the giving goes to global initiatives.  In 2021, grants were made in malaria reduction and promoting childhood immunizations.  Neither of those grants is Ukraine-specific, so Givewell may be a place to turn if Ukraine is making you wish to be more generous generally. 

If you want your dollars to be as impactful as possible, without choosing a specific cause, then donating to Givewell’s “Maximum Impact Fund” may be a useful way to do so.  Givewell also makes giving easy – there is a page with over 10 different mechanisms to give from online payments with a credit card to giving securities from your portfolio to giving Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies.  There is even a mechanism to give securities or investments directly into a Givewell e*Trade Donor-Advised Fund through the website.  I like the transparency of Givewell, which includes a link to a page called “Our Mistakes.”  It is impossible to do anything significant without making mistakes.  Owning and reporting on those mistakes always builds my sense of trust in an entity.

Wrap up

“Give, serve and support” is one of our core values.  The websites listed above give ways to assess the merits and efficiency of giving.  Of course, there are many ways to give that you will not find listed on a website.  As believers in sound financial planning, we encourage you to consider gifting within your overall financial picture.  As the flight attendants suggest, “put your own Oxygen mask on first, then put it on your kids.”  In the end, it is the act of giving, and the receipt of the assistance, that matters.  

If you want to talk about your financial picture, reach out to us to schedule a free consultation.  Or, if you are a current client of ours and you want to talk about how to use some of your investments to give, schedule a meeting with John or Liz.  

Next up will be part 2 of Pain in Ukraine – protect against risk



John Chesbrough

John is a financial planner and investment manager. He, along with his business partner Elizabeth Snyder, founded, a fee-only, independent financial advisory firm called Trail Financial Planning (Trail FP) in Bellingham, WA. John and Liz enjoy working with people who care for others and their community – parents, firefighters, therapists, doctors, nurses, and teachers. They work with people by appointment. To learn more, or to schedule some time with John or Liz directly, please visit