Charitable giving is a time-honored tradition in the United States and is even enshrined in our tax code as a legitimate deductible expense. Thus, you can save some tax dollars if you’re willing to open your wallet to worthwhile causes. There are thousands of charities (half of whom have seem to have clogged my mailbox with solicitations during the past few months). I welcome many of these charitable solicitations: however, I admit I must ignore most because my pockets are only so deep.
But the most important question you and I must answer is, “Where do I begin?”
The answer is to find a charity that works on projects or causes that interest you. Personally, I try to support charities that relieve human suffering, especially in poor parts of the world. I figure the least we can do is try to give people a shot at the basics, such as food and shelter. This organization (www.heifer.org) for example, has a distinguished record in buying animals – chickens, rabbits, water buffalo, and so forth – for people who then either raise their livestock to feed themselves or to sell for cash.
I also favor charities that work on clean water, stamping out malaria, or other diseases that bedevil the third world. These organizations are working for folks who simply don’t have the means to cure what ails them.
Some of this charity work is hands-on, and I have traveled to both Guatemala and El Salvador to help with sanitation and health projects. But let’s face it: I am not an expert in confronting these issues. Nor do I necessarily have the time to travel. So I usually find it is more efficient to put some money into the hands of those more expert.
Charitable work dollars and efforts need not stretch to Latin America. I have also found plenty of worthwhile charities right in my backyard, helping local people while bettering my community. But, regardless of where you spend your money, you want to know it’s being put to good use. So, I try to avoid charities with impressive buildings or bloated CEO salaries. Can a charity that spends 94.6 percent of its money on fundraising be expected to accomplish anything more than spending more money on fundraising? I crossed them off my list after spotting that sorry statistic on www.charitynavigator.org.
Yes, some charities don’t really accomplish much, but groups such as charitynavigator or the American Institute of Philanthropy help you sort the good from the not-so-good. It’s important to spend money on causes you support, but it’s just as important to make sure that it’s being spent wisely and safely. In short: find a charity you can “relate to,” but then check ‘em out completely before parting with your hard-earned cash!