Tis the season, and many of us are in the giving spirit. With so many good causes out there, selecting charities can seem a bit daunting.
It’s good to do a little research and ask some questions to find out a little more about the organization. There are some helpful guides which can give you financial breakdowns and spending habits of each charity from places like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch. Here are a few guidelines I use when selecting a charity or organization to donate to.
- Fund Allocation
One of the most important things to ask is how is my money being spent? When donating to a charity or cause, I like to see at least 80% of my funds going towards action. You will find some charities spending (in my opinion) too much money on administration, fund-raising and extraneous things. Before you give, try and find the percentages, most good charities will have it readily available.
Where do these charities operate and do I see the effects of their work? Granted there are several charities that work ‘under the radar’, but they should still be held accountable. I like to see results when choosing a charity whether it be news coverage, events, preservation, laws passed, documented actions, etc.
How does your charity affect change? Make sure you are comfortable with the actions of your charity, and know what their methods are. Some groups can be more radical and aggressive, and indeed some charities could be viewed as terrorist groups. It is wise to know what your charity is doing and how they are doing it.
- Transparency and Trust
How much do you know about your charity, and how easy is it to find out more? I like to know a lot about the groups I give to, from where they are based to how far they reach, what/who they help and how they help are all important to me. Some charities will allow you to even select exactly what you want your money to go to.
- Ability to Affect Change
This is where the rubber hits the road and I want to know what is my Return on Investment (ROI) is going to be, because that is exactly what it is. I’m not giving money away, I am investing it in an idea. When looking at a specific cause, try and pinpoint organizations which are most able to impact it the best way. Sometimes it is a larger organization with lots of equipment and manpower, other times its the smaller guys who can mobilize quickly and effectively – choose the best tool for the job.
There are a lot of great charities out there and I would like to share a few of my favorites that I support and why:
The Nature Conservancy
I am a long time believer in their methods of affecting change. They are non-partisan and committed to preserving wildlands through the purchase of land and conversion of that land into trusts and protected areas.
Committed to the protection of endangered species and wildlife world wide. They have been around for a long time, are large and have influence all over the globe.
The United Nations Children’s Fund protects and nurtures children, our future. They also provide disaster relief and aid to millions of refugee children everywhere, including child solder rehabilitation.
Doctors without Borders
Providing medical care to those in need all over the world, particularly the poorest of nations.
Conservation and preservation of the oceans through research, education, and political action.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
Not only is it the premier Aquarium, they really focus on and are respected for their research and education above profit.
Environmental Defense Fund
A watchdog group that monitors environmental law and affects change through the legal system. I believe their work is very important such a litigious society, especially to monitor the powerful special interest groups.
Your Local Food Bank
Don’t forget your local neighborhoods! Thousands of people in the Untied States die from starvation every day, probably even right in your own area.
Our National Forests
I believe it is important not only to preserve these areas, but also maintain public access to allow us to experience true wilderness. Great for educating our children about conservation and promotes understanding.
Feel free to post up your favorite charities, or even who you like to volunteer with as you can always give your time in place of money!