I strongly recommend doing the following:
- Check out Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org), a 501C non-profit organization works to guide intelligent giving. According to their site, they say, “They help charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions by providing information on over five thousand charities and by evaluating the financial health of each of these charities. They ensure our evaluations are widely used by making them easy to understand and available to the public free of charge. By guiding intelligent giving, they aim to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation's most persistent challenges.”
- Read Charity Navigator advice on smart giving: ”Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors:“
... The site suggest several tips that I would like to summarize and emphasize in particular that I find to really important points in particular:
- Identify and Prioritize Your Values. Support non-profits that have targeted outcome goals
and are not too general with their objectives.
“Smart givers generally don't give reactively in a knee-jerk reaction. They don't respond to the first organization that appeals for help. They take the time to identify which causes are most important to them and their families. And they are specific about the change they want to affect. For example, they don't just support generic cancer charities, but instead have targeted outcome goals for their giving, such as providing mammograms to at-risk women in their community.”
Basically, really think about what your values are before you feel guilty and just give money to whomever sends us pleas for help. Personally, I get tons and tons of mail from all these non-profits who get my info from similar non-profits to whom I donated money previously. FYI — Non-profits often share your contact info with other non-profts that share similar focus so think about where you’re donating money b/c you’ll soon be hearing from other similar organizations. I have been guilty of repeatedly giving money to organizations that send me info rather than really researching the organizations that interest me. I recommend that you first take time to evaluate what issues matter the most to you and then research through charitynavigator.org for the non-profit that does the best job at what you care about. For example, say you care about environmental-related causes, but you will find that various non-profits take on a different angle or focus. In my experience, there are firms that focus on protecting wildlife or endangered animals affected by global warming, others that focus on preserving natural resources and national parks, and then others that focus on the effects of environmental damage on people. When I thought it through, I realized I cared more about environmental dangers that more directly affect human lives foremost. Also, there are non-profits that focus on short-term emergency care and then there are non-profits that focus on longer-term strategic planning i.e. Do you want to feed someone a fish (or veggie if you’re vegan) today when they are hungry and desperate, or do you want to help teach them to fish so they can eat later everyday?
- Concentrate all Your Giving on Only a Few Non-Profits.
Donate and work on very few organizations rather than give to a bunch of them at a fraction of what you could give to just one or two organizations that really meet your passionate concerns (see above). Personally, I've been overly diversifying my own contributions to a various non-profits since I have felt guilty about not giving money to non-profits who would have "wasted" their money writing to me and sending me all their endless free address labels if I didn't reward their efforts.
- Donate to a Charity in Honor of Someone You Care
Another point (not mentioned to on the Charity Navigator site) — you can always donate in honor or in memory of someone as a gift for people who already have everything material they feel they need. You can also donate in memory of someone to honor their memory so they continue to “live” on in your good deeds done in their name and send a note to someone alive who would feel happy to hear that you care.
***I noticed this rather fun “gift” idea on Oxfam (they get 3/4 stars on Charity Navigator for excellence):
(Gifts that help others around the world. Their site states, “Need an unusual gift? How about a camel or a water pump? What about a coffee mill or an emergency toilet? This holiday season, give a gift that helps people in need.” They allow you to send a card to someone you care about this donation in their honor.)
Happy Holiday and giving! :)
- Janet Si-Ming Lee
Principal Designer, Siming Cybercreative