Charity: Tips for smart holiday giving
A lot of good causes will be vying for your charitable dollars this holiday season, said Ines Novacic in CBSNews.com. But with more than 1 million charities throughout the U.S., “knowing which cause to donate to can get tricky.” The first question donors should ask themselves about their charity of choice is this: “Is it going to put the majority of my contribution toward programs and services?” Charity Navigator, which provides ratings for approximately 8,000 U.S.-based charities, “says at least half of a charity’s budget should go toward its programs, and no more than 20 percent should go toward fundraising and marketing costs.”
Try to avoid “knee-jerk” giving, like in response to a phone or email solicitation, said Kerri Anne Renzulli in Money.com. Your money will go further if you give directly to an organization rather than through a third party. Telemarketer fees, for example, eat up an average of two-thirds of the money raised, while crowdfunding sites often charge a 5 percent fee on each donation. Some people give small amounts to lots of charities “in the hopes of spreading love,” but you should avoid this route too. Because of administrative costs, “the $3 it might cost a charity to handle a donation, for example, is only 3 percent of a $100 donation—but 30 percent of a $10 gift.” Finally, make sure you “look past the name.” The organization’s mission “might not be what you think it is.”
How can we be sure “that we’re getting the most bang for our charity buck?” asked Nurith Aizenman in NPR.org. Nonprofit GiveWell.org uses a data-driven approach to recommend charities where donors’ money will go furthest. Against Malaria Foundation, GiveWell’s topranked charity for 2016, distributes $5 bed nets in African nations to protect against malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Because the needs in developing nations are so much greater, a dollar accomplishes more there. As a result, GiveWell’s recommended charities are all outside the U.S., a factor that may not suit donors who “feel particularly moved to help others who are close to home.”
Don’t forget, though, that “you can make a difference without emptying your wallet,” said Katie Dupere in Mashable.com. If you’re financially strapped this holiday season, consider donating your time, effort, or expertise to a worthy cause. You can find local nonprofits that welcome volunteers by searching on GivingTuesday.org or VolunteerMatch.org, while services like CatchAFire.org can match your skills to specific organizations. You can also donate what you have on hand, like gently used clothing. If you do have a bit of cash to spare, shelters are always looking for low-cost essentials like new socks and underwear. Or you can always give later, when your financial situation improves. Donations are needed year-round, not just in December.