Friday, May 25, 2007

Where and When to Give

Someone is always asking for a donation and not every organization is on the up and up. How do you know the difference?

Most of us are not in Bill Gates position and don't have millions to give away, so we want the little we have to offer to be spent in the most wise and helpful manner.

The best we can do is what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does - take the time to investigate the charities asking for our help.
Two of the quickest ways to make an evaluation are with Charity Navigator, the biggest charity evaluator on the web, Charity Navigator lists 501(c) charities and gives them a rating based on a formula that takes into account the amount of revenue brought in against the amount of revenue spent on overhead (salaries, office space, advertising, and such). This sounds like a wonderful idea and it is on the surface. But keep in mind that an organization is more complicated and diverse than the numbers submitted on their tax forms. Do not make a decision souly on how many stars Charity saw fit to hand out.

A second watchdog organization is,, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. Their site operates much like the BBB site, giving a detailed listing for each charity that has submitted information and relating complaints against reported charities.

These resources, a few minutes spent searching Google for news about an organization reading other listings than the official chairty website, word of mouth, and your own instinct are the best indicators of where to put your money and time.

If you give locally, look around your community for hard evidence of your intended charity accomplishments. Talk to people they've helped. See if the reality matches the hype.

When all is said and done, be wise but don't let the dirt you find turn you into a cynic. For every scam you uncover there are dozens of worthy organizations where your money will change a persons life.

When to give? Every day is a good day. Giving spikes during the Thanksgiving and Christmas. A turkey dinner is nice but the homeless need to eat the other 363 days of the year. A bag of festively wrapped goodies only lasts so long. Charities need donations and people need help year round. One way to combat the end of the year giving rush is to budget your philanthropy. World Vision and programs like it offer monthly plans of sponsorship to make giving an easy and automatic process.

The bottom line is to give. If money is scarce, give of yourself, your time, skills, and creativity. I'll never forget the heartfelt plea of a DFS worker. Clark County is overwhelmed with foster children living in group homes. The reporter asked the worker, "What is your greatest need?"

The worker replied, "It's as simple as this, come down and play with a toddler, rock a baby for an hour, help us give them the attention they deserve."

No research or checkbook involved with that choice...just simple and rewarding.


CindyLV said...

Thanks for providing valuable information. I especially appreciated the info on how to support a cause when money is not available to send.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad to be of help. I appreicate your readership...and more so your friendship.