6 tips to donate to charity the smart way
Before you write a check to a charity this holiday season, follow these tips to ensure your money is being used to make a difference, not a profit.
This post comes from Maryalene Laponsie at partner site MoneyTalksNews.com
We are fast approaching the winter holidays and that means Salvation Army buckets will be making appearances outside stores across the U.S. But it's not just the Salvation Army that ramps up its fundraising during the happiest season. A 2011 report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that nearly 70 percent of Americans believe it is important to give to charities during the holidays.
For many of us, donating to the less fortunate is just as much a part of the season’s celebration as tinsel and carols. However, don’t let your warm and fuzzy feelings lead you to make bad decisions when it comes to donating to charities.
Of course, before you can donate to a charity, you need to find one. Start by considering what fires you up. What would you change about the world? Which injustice would you right if given the chance?
From curing childhood cancer to saving the oceans, there are charities for virtually every cause. Once you settle on your general area of focus, decide whether you want to donate locally, nationally or internationally. If you are concerned about hunger, you could donate to the local food bank or perhaps you’ll feel called to help those in developing countries. It’s your call. There is no right answer.
After you know your cause, it’s time to find a charity worth your money. You could do a Google search, but you are better off going to a dedicated site like Charity Navigator or GuideStar.
According to Giving USA Foundation, Americans donated more than $316 billion to charitable causes in 2012. With so much money at stake, charity scams can be big business for rip-off artists who prey on others' good intentions. Some so-called charities aren’t even registered tax-exempt organizations and are simply a front to siphon money into the owner’s pocket.
Avoid being duped by charity scams by double-checking any charity’s credentials through Charity Navigator, GuideStar or Give.org, which is run by the Better Business Bureau.
Next, even if your charity is legitimate, that doesn’t mean your money will be used wisely. Before you donate to Kids Wish Network – dubbed America’s worst charity by one report – you probably should know it spends less than 3 percent of its money on actually granting kids’ wishes.
According to the BBB Wise Giving Alliance standards, a charitable organization should spend at least 65 percent of its money on program expenses – that is, activities directly related to its cause. While 65 percent may be the bare minimum, you can find many charities that go above and beyond. For example, consider Feeding America, which spends a whopping 97.9 percent of its budget on program expenses.
Once you’ve made a couple donations, your mailbox is likely to begin filling with solicitations. It may be tempting to spread the wealth and give a little here and a little there, but your money will go further if you concentrate your donations on one charity, advises Charity Navigator on its website.
Remember, each organization has handling and processing costs associated with receiving your donation. There may not be much left of your small donation after those costs are worked into the equation.
Never make a donation to a telephone solicitor.
First, they may not even be legitimate. Telephone charity scams use names similar to well-known organizations or they may say they are raising money for causes that tug at the heart strings such as supporting military families, veterans or police officers. In reality, your money will be used to profit the person calling and do nothing more.
Second, even if it is a legitimate charity, by donating over the phone, there is a very good chance only a small portion of your money will actually make it to the organization in question. A report from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette found that, on average, only 35 percent of the gross proceeds raised by third-party fundraisers in that state actually went to charities.
Finally, don’t forget that your favorite charity can likely use more than just your money. Soup kitchens need hands to serve food; environmental groups need feet to survey land. If you have a particular skill such as Web design or marketing, you may be able to donate those services too.
Volunteering is a win-win. It means less money a charity must spend on hired help, and it gives you a chance to walk the walk and actually make a difference. And that is a warm, fuzzy feeling no check can ever match.
What is your favorite charity? Tell us in the comments below who you support and why they get your money.
More on Money Talks News
Check and see how badly the administrators are ripping people off. Some of the top paid executives have atrocity salaries.
Salvation Army has the least paid executive/leader of all charitable organizations that I have checked out.
The bho healthcare fund in America's biggest rip-off!!!
I'm a mail carrier for the USPS and I see what happens to charitable contributions. Have you seen the new mailers with money in them? There are coins in them, forever stamps, and sometimes even paper dollars. Where does the money for this come from? Do you want to give cash so you can get on a mailing list, then see your money go to other people who don't need it?
Another problem is that non-profit organizations can mail letters and large envelopes for just five cents. But in that case that mail never gets forwarded, because the organization is not paying for the extra services. So oftentimes these expensively printed envelopes and letters and charity seals and greeting cards go straight into the recycler. I come back to the station with a thick handful of those after every workday. THAT'S what's happening with your cash contributions.
I also prefer to help the animals, on top of donating to the ASPC we feed the animals during winter months ( Deer, Turkey's, Squirrels, Birds, and many more, wish more people did - they need help too).
We also donate to the Red Cross International - Philippines , and St Jude's and Shriners Hospitals for children - They help all children, don't charge patients, etc...
I do volunteer occasionally - should probably do more of that though...
I've worked at my company for almost 30 years.....and every single year they made a major push to donate to the United Way. Every single year, I've donated and raised the amount of my donation. This year, I suppose they had a United Way drive.....there was a notice posted at the time clocks announcing the winners of gift cards for United Way donations......but I never heard about it.
Of course, in the past, the United Way donation campaign was managed by the in-store HR managers. Now there are no HR managers to spread the word......because the entire HR department was eliminated.
Oh well, that's another $20 a week in my pay.
Charity donations are a fast and simple way to help those who are less fortunate, but we have to make sure we are giving to a cause that truly deserves it and one we know will actually use the donated products to help its people not make profit. Making a difference can be as easy as finding an old item that is not in use and giving it away to a charity who can truly take advantage of all the benefits that item may hold. I donated an old car to and it was great knowing I gave it to a charity that takes the car and actually gives it to someone who can really use it to change their lives and allow them to enable so many new possibilities that were limited due to a simple lack of transportation. At http://www.onlinecardonation.com/vehicledonations.html. They accept running and non-running vehicles to provide transportation and even financial aid. I know that they are non-profit and really use everything they get to help people. In such tough times, I think we can all do a little something to help, especially for a cause that makes such a great difference for everyday people limited by what is a necessity.
I support Nehemiah's Restoration. I am friends with the founder and work with his wife. They and their children have done Mission trips to the areas in Africa that they try to affect and Rob, the founder, does not even draw a salary. I get to see and know first hand the lives that are being changed. The organization does several things, the main mission is to give people a way to live and support themselves after whatever catastrophe has struck them not just to give a short term helping hand. Look it up, they even have a $7 per month program that can make a difference.
There are still a lot of problems with who can apply, where they can apply and what do they need to be qualified. I am aware of one male that is unemployed, is medically not able to work that was told he has to get a medical evaluation (to get a medical evaluation, the hospital wants over $200.00 up front for the evaluation. Where does he get the money? He gives up and stays on the list as one that doesn’t apply) before they will give him Medicaid. The workers in the field are either not knowledgeable or they are discouraging young people from applying. Training and guidance is needed in the field; not just at the federal level. A major factor tied to low sign ups by the young is the availability of information about what is happening in the individual states. The young people are not getting the word and do not know what is happening, i.e., 23 states are currently expanding Medicaid, 4 states have a customized Medicaid expansion, 4 states are undecided about Medicaid expansion and 20 states are currently not going to expand. Get the word out, put pressure on the states and you will see an increase in the number of young adults signing up on the ACA websites. Keep hiding the information and the program will dies for lack of inputs. Young people operate in a crisis mode; if there is not a crisis they would rather do nothing but visit with friends they are not supposed to be with, drink what they are not supposed to drink, eat only when starving or junk food, treat money as though it were trash and give it away to a friend or buy junk with it. They have a brain that is not yet developed and it probably won't develop for years to come; some brains will never develop because of burn out. Girls think of boys and what is hung between their legs and boys think of girls and what is between their legs; both often think with these body parts. When they get sick it is an emergency or Mom and Dad take care of them. Trying to entice young people to do the right thing is almost impossible. This is a very big mistake that was made with the ACA. Also keep in mind that many young people, especially males, are out of work or have only part time employment and should qualify for Medicaid, but they will not apply because they are lazy and/or believe that anything that is free has attachments tied to it and they want nothing to do with it. Many young males try to apply for Medicaid and are turned away because they cannot prove that they are unemployed or disabled and are told the program is for women only or males below 18 years of age, or they must get a medical evaluation; where is the money coming from to get a medical evaluation? Should the GOP help with the ACA, the use factor would be very high and people would like and accept it as they do Medicare.
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Occupy Wall Street bought and forgave the student loan debt of more than 2,700 Everest College students.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
BLOGS WE LIKE
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'