Sunday, February 3, 2008

Effective Charitable Giving

You should "spend" your charity dollars wisely so they are used as effectively and efficiently as possible on what you want to support. The following are a few simple tips to maximize the effectiveness of your charitable giving.


Goals

What are the best ways to help the world? Who do you want to help most? End world hunger? Promote peace? Educate people? Rescue refugees? Help children?

Write down your giving goals or areas first so you have a plan for where your charitable giving will be invested. Rank or weight each category if you wish as well.


Budget

How much do you want to give out in a year? Write down how much you can afford to give or want to give in total. Then divvy it up among your giving areas


Research

What charities do the best job in the areas that you want to support? How effectively and efficiently do they use the money that people give them?

Research your charities to find the ones that best match your objectives, will use your money well, and won't line their own pockets with it. When you have a list, use your budget and goals to determine how much to give to each one.

By far the best charity research sources I've found are:
http://guidestar.org
http://give.org (Better Business Bureau)
http://charitynavigator.org


Maximize

Figure out the most efficient way to transfer your money to your charities so the maximum amount possible goes to the programs you want to support and as little as possible goes to middlemen.

Give enough to each charity so your money is not eaten up in administrative expenses. There is an expense for each transaction. Giving at least $100 to a charity is a reasonable minimum amount as of 2008.

If you keep your charity list short, you will minimize return mail asking for more money. Such mail consumes more of what you give.

NEVER give out money to anyone who calls you. They are most likely a contracted firm that takes a significant cut of the money going to a charity. Or worse a scam artist is simply trying to steal your money.

Giving directly to your charity usually cuts out most middlemen. While a bit more work for the giver, writing a check usually maximizes the funds that the charity actually gets. Note however that the charity does incur some costs in handling checks. If you do online banking then you can often save a few steps and a stamp by having your bank send the charity a check. Plus then the bank helps you keep records of who you gave money to and when.

Giving by credit card is convenient but credit card companies typically take a 5%+ cut from donated funds as a transaction charge. Do you really want to make

One of the most efficient and convenient ways I've found to donate is through the Network for Good (http://networkforgood.org) using their "TeleCheck" option. The Network For Good tells you exactly how much is going to the transaction processor. TeleCheck charges a simple flat fee -- so the larger the donation the smaller the percent that gets diverted. Plus the Network for Good returns a nice compact summary to you of how much you donated to whom.

Both http://guidestar.org and http://charitynavigator.org have "Donate Now" buttons that link directly from their charity reports to http://networkforgood.org for those charities that can receive funds from the Network for Good. This way you can do your research and donate all at the same time.


For more information

If you would like more detailed tips, please read the Better Business Bureau's "Tips on Giving" at http://give.org/tips/ -- they are quite thorough.


You may send a copy of this to your friends!

Copyright 2008 Tim Oey
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

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