Giving Back

4 Tips for Making Sure Your Charity Is REALLY Helping Those in Need

Inspiring 56

donateEvery year as the holidays approach, my mailbox is stuffed with solicitations from dozens of charities. So many charities, and they all sound so worthy! If only I were a bazillionaire, I could give to them all. But I'm not, so I have to be picky.

Fortunately I have a little help. There are rating systems that give you a snapshot of how charities use their money so you know exactly how it's being used. And I have a few other guidelines I follow.

1. Find out how the charity rates. Charity Navigator is probably the best-known charity ratings service. Last year they added an accountability and transparency dimension to their ratings. Their website includes loads of advice for donors.

2. But keep an open mind about what those ratings mean. Here's why simple ratings systems can be problematic, though. Doesn't mean they aren't still useful, just that the picture is always more complicated than that.

3. Pick one or two categories to focus on. As much as I'd love to help a whole variety of causes, I've narrowed my giving to just two types: Organizations that address hunger and that help mothers. And I could probably stand to narrow that a bit more. But it helps to remind myself that every donation can have a ripple effect in a community. Helping mothers helps our children, too, for example.

4. Think local. There are lots of smaller, local organizations that are doing great work in your community. I like to look for charities that are founded by people from within the community by people who understand its needs best, and who are coming up with creative solutions.

How do you decide which organizations to donate to?


Image via Rachel Tayse/Flickr

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Reina13 Reina13

We give to local charities that we trust.

4kidz916 4kidz916

Most of the organizations I give to is done through our church.  The money benefits various charities associated with out state's baptist convention.  The one I give most to is the Baptist Men Disaster Relief Team.  They are in NJ helping right now.  Everything is volunteer so the money goes to equipment, food, and other supplies needed to help people in  need. 

gacgb... gacgbaker

We usually go with organizations that we are passionate about the cause they work with.  We also volunteer with most of those organizations so we are 'inside' them and not just throwing money at them.  

BabyTeki BabyTeki

Local charities or ones that help a cause we have been personally affected by.

count... countrygirlkat

We try to do local ones or ones that are really close to our heart.  I figure everybody has something they are passionate about and is close to their hearts so if we all do the ones that mean the most to us, all of them will be covered in the end hopefully. 

elasmimi elasmimi

I give to things sponsored by my church, and always to St. Jude and Ronald McDonald House. (we have a local one) I also used to give to police and veterans organizations, but there have been so many calls from these that I'm beginning to wonder if all the calls are legit. The site you mentioned should be helpful to me.

RobynS RobynS

Thank you, this is great information. I've been bummed in the past when I donated to a cause and later discovered that only a teeny tiny portion of my donation actually went to help the cause and the rest went into someone's pocket. :(

My dearest friend from college operates an orphanage and outreach program where they help families affected by HIV/AIDS and extreme poverty. They build houses, give children a free breakfast before school, help women use their skills to create a source of income, and of course, care for orphaned babies round the clock! Because I know her personally and KNOW that 100% of my donations goes to the cause, I donate to her organization, The Baobab Home. :)

funha... funhappymom

We try to keep it local or ones that are highly recommended by friends and family.

bamab... bamababe1975

We go local and do our homework to make sure those organizations use the money as they say.

coppe... copperswifey

They are either well known charities, through our church or through my husbands work. :)

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