I occasionally write about the importance of giving back, donating money, and volunteering. This is something I'm really passionate about, and I want to spread the word! You don't have to be independently wealthy, have knowledge on every non-profit on the planet, or spend a lot of time to make a big difference. So, here are my five tips for great giving:
1. Follow your heart. There are literally thousands of non-profits just in the city you live in. This can be overwhelming. The first step is to figure out what you're passionate about. Think about the kind of social issues or news stories that really get you fired up. Maybe you are interested in women's health advocacy. Perhaps you're an animal lover and want to protect our furry friends. Or, maybe the you can't believe how many kids go hungry in the US every day and want to do something to help. Whatever your passion, find a charity that aligns with it. You'll be more interested, more engaged, and more likely to form a long-term giving relationship with a charity that you're personally invested in.
2. Do your research. As I said before, there are more non-profits in this world than you could possibly know what to do with. And, you work hard to earn that money that's burning a hole in your altruistic pocket--don't let it go to an organization that isn't doing their best to further the cause. Every few years, the media goes crazy with a story about how a trusted charity isn't on the up-and-up or has ulterior motives (see Kony 2012, Three Cups of Tea, Komen vs Planned Parenthood, et al). So, take the time to do your research before opening your wallet. Sites like Charity Navigator and Give Well offer insight into the best, most effective charities out there. Additionally, organizations that receive over a certain amount of donations each year are required to make their Annual Report public. Check out an organization's Annual Report and determine what percentage of donations are going to programs and services (as opposed to administrative and fundraising costs). The higher percentage, the better.
|Kids playing during recess at a La Esperanza |
Granada-sponsered school in Nicaragua
4. Keep your receipts! Yes, giving makes us feel all warm and fuzzy and gives us some good karma, but don't forget about your bottom line. If the charity you're donating to is 501(c)3 certified, that means you can deduct your donations from your tax liability every year. Always ask for a receipt and hold on to them until tax time.
5. Give in other ways. Sometimes, money is tight. If you can't make a financial donation, that doesn't mean you can't help in other ways. Most charities rely heavily on volunteers to do everything under the sun: writing thank you notes to donors, walking dogs, tutoring kids, organizing food drives, or cleaning up after events. Think about what you're good at, and offer your services. For example, an organization I support just completed a new website. Since I'm a writer, I offered to proofread their site. Everyone has special talents--get creative about how you can use yours to help others.
As for me? I love the idea of offering my help and funds to a small group of charities that are important to me, that run the gamut. Currently, I sponsor a Nicaraguan high school student's education through La Esperanza Granada, give as a member to the Women's Philanthropic Investment Group of Seattle in support of our work with women and children, donate to Semester at Sea so that deserving college students have a chance to study abroad, and other things here and there, as they come up.
I'm always curious about the types of causes that other people are passionate about. I'd love to hear about the charities you love in the comments, so type away!