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Finance and Law

Choosing a Charitable Organization to Support

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The world is rife with causes that are in need of financial assistance. If you are thinking about making a monetary contribution to a charity, whether as a one-time thing or on an regular basis, you will certainly not be lacking for choice.  Choosing which organization to support can be a difficult decision. Some charities mean well, but their efforts are poorly executed. Some are just downright shady and do little to nothing to actually help who they are purporting to help. Then there are those whose administrative fees are so high, very little actually goes to those in need, and this should give you pause. But, doing a little bit of homework can make you an informed giver who supports reputable organizations producing real results. Here are some helpful tips for deciding where to send your donations.

What Issues are Important to You?

There are countless problems in the world in need of fixing. When it comes to choosing a charitable organization to support, it is important to clarify which ones are most important to you, which ones you feel most strongly about addressing. Maybe you are all about empowering people in poverty to start their own businesses with microloans. Maybe you are passionate about promoting equal rights, education or protecting endangered wildlife. Are you more concerned with addressing problems in your local area or are there international issues that are more pressing to you? Clarify your beliefs and what matters to you to execute a more focused search on charities you wish to support.

Where Will Your Money Make the Greatest Impact?

The nature of the cause and the location where these good works are being performed greatly impact the financial need of the organization. While any money you can give to any cause is a good thing—after all, lots of little donations can add up to big results, you should take into account the impact of the amount of money you are able to donate on the organization’s efforts. Many charities located in poorer areas of the world can accomplish a lot with a small amount of money. One charity I work with in Vietnam for disabled children can provide food, treatment, assistance to the parents and every other element of the care program for a mere 60 dollars a month.  So, while I don’t have deep pockets, I am happy to know the money I am providing is really helping the organization achieve its goals.

Do Your Research

Read up on the various charities you are thinking about supporting to gauge how well they are accomplishing their mission.  Peruse the websites. They should provide clear information on the mission, the program, their goals and what they have achieved. Are the accomplishments described in concrete terms?  Many websites provide detailed information on the financials of various charities to make it easy to gauge the efficiency of their efforts, as well as how transparent they are in making financial information available to donors—examples include GuideStar and CharityNavigator. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that a higher overhead cost does not necessarily mean a charity is being run inefficiently. It takes money to make money, and this is true in the non-profit world as well. There will be expenses that must be taken care of, or the organization will cease to operate. Ultimately, you have to look at the whole financial picture, and ultimately, you may decide that supporting an organization in meeting its overhead costs so it can continue to carry out its mission is the best use of your money.

About the Author: Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about a variety of financial topics from managing debt to supporting charitable causes.

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