Monday, November 17, 2014

A Season of Giving

As Thanksgiving approaches in the United States, a feeling of thanks and celebration of life begins and continues through Christmas. This also becomes the season of giving.  I have always believed that we tend to donate more to charities and to others less fortunate than ourselves during this season.
Give Thanks - Postcard
Give Thanks - Postcard by GotWords
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My feeling about increased giving seems to have some statistical proof. As reported in a Reuters article, the results of a December 2010 survey conducted by Causes.com are:

"The Holiday season is definitely the time of year that many Americans feel like giving back. According to Causes, donation amounts on the site increase by 42% during November and December compared to other months throughout the remainder of the year. Also, three times as many people make donations during the Holidays vs. non-Holiday months."
Be Thankful Throw Pillows
Be Thankful Throw Pillows by celebrationideas
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After having donated small and scarce amounts of my "extra" money to scams or to organizations that are later revealed as organizations that misuse the donations, I have cut back on some of my impulsive giving. Instead, I have begun to research charities that have better track records.

While recently having a conversation of a similar topic, another person responded that they give, and if the money is misused, that is on the conscience of the con-artist or person who mismanages the money.  I agree. And yet, If I give my only extra $20 to a charity that misuses it, that is $20 less that is given to someone in need.   That makes me cringe.

Initially, I was going to give a list of my favorite charitable organizations. Then I decided that rather than review my preferences, I would give you the tools to review your own.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon what appears to be an honest and neutral organization that "rates" charities based on a variety of criteria.  Charity Navigator advertises itself as "your guide to intelligent giving".  I agree with that statement.  Using Charity Navigator has helped me decide which charities I want to give to.

As I said, they rate charities based on a variety of things: transparency, fundraising, and percentage of the funds that are used for the recipients as opposed to going back into fundraising or administrative costs.  They show statistics, and financial reports, as well as create an easy to  understand pie graph.

In my mind, I look for two main things in a charity.  I want to know that a high percentage of the donations are going into the programs. I also want to know that the charity isn't under any sort of investigation.

Charity Navigator makes it easy to find charities by topic or by rating.  I typically browse in the categories of  "animals" or "military" but you can easily find a category that suits you best. I typically look at the pie chart to see how the money is both raised and earned. And I end with looking at the list of similar organizations.

I also regularly look at the Charity Navigator Top Ten Lists and the Donors Advisory list.  That way I can see the best and possibly the worst charities.  I feel as though it keeps me educated.

During this Thanksgiving season, I wish you love, peace, good company, and good food. And I hope I have provided you with some new and useful information if you are planning on giving during this season of thanks.

Written by Dawn Rae
Disclosure: In affiliation with Zazzle.com, Dawn Rae is a blogger and content writer who may earn compensation from the sale of  Zazzle products.

8 comments:

  1. This is such a worthy topic for the season of giving, Dawn Rae, and quite appropriate for year-round, too. I've pretty much learned to donate time, effort, stuff, and money to local charity organizations or to organizations where I know the people involved. This way I am more confident in knowing needs are being met. Unfortunately, even then I have been fooled by some cagey operators who do not truly disclose what is done with monetary donations, hence donating "stuff" instead of money. The Charity Navigator sounds like a good way to stay informed of charitable organizations and their practices.

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    1. I tend to try to give locally, and to organizations that I can see the people in action too. But like you said, I've still been fooled at times. So sad that some organizations that have bad names can cause people to stop giving.

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  2. Very informative Dawn. People are being very careful these days about who they donate to (or so I've found) - My mom has actually gone to a local charity in her town and bought meals for people (her donation goes toward a meal) - My hubby and I have sponsored two children over a 30 year period now - I pay monthly til the child reaches 16 (or 18) - then the charity switches to another child. Being that we have sons, I've sponsored two girls through Canadian Feed the Children. It is hard to know who to trust with charity money - another is our bank puts up a generic description of a family and we're able to buy for each member (without their names disclosed of course) - not sure if they did this last year though? - My son's school also gives donation gifts directly to families in need, which is a nice way to give as well

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    1. It is definitely difficult to know who to trust with donated money. That's for sure. It sounds like your family supports some really worthy charities.

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  3. Excellent advice and post! I am sorry to say that I learned the hard way the charities should be researched and investigated before you give. I looked at a few on the Charity Navigator link you provided above and found it to be accurate. I appreciate the link. It will make a great place to at least start an investigation before we give. I have always felt strongly about giving to a charity that truly gives the majority to the actual cause and not to administrative costs.

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  4. I'm glad to have someone else thinks that the Charity Navigator appears to be accurate. I thought so too based on some of my experiences. But I was sad to see that some of the groups I'm interested in are rated low.

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  5. Excellent advice, Dawn Rae. I never donate to solicitors over the phone; instead, I want time to investigate and see if it is legit. Your link will make that easier in the future. Very timely article.

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    1. Thank you, Elf. Around here, people stand at major intersections with buckets. Last weekend the sign said "donations for animal rescue". No brochures, no agency name. But lots of donations. It makes me wonder.

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