Tis the Season of Giving. Are Your Charities Doing Their Part?

by Aileen

A family at Christmas time in front of Christmas treeYes, it’s that time of year again when we celebrate all that we are thankful for and share the blessings we’ve received with those who are in need.

Some people donate to charities for the benefits. Some give for social reasons, and others give because of the personal or emotional connection to the cause. Whatever the reason the end result is the same, we give to charities so that the ones in need are the ones that receive….or so I thought.

It all started a couple of years ago when some recent charity scandals hit the news. One was related to a well-known international organization that was unaware of the mismanaged donations that padded some employee’s pockets. It heightened my curiosity about charitable organizations and how the financial contributions were being dispersed.

Later that year I found myself in a conversation regarding one of my favorite charities at the time and I was told that most of the money that was contributed went to administrative and operations costs such as the CEO’s salary and not the actual cause. I began hearing and reading more stories of wasteful spending within these organizations and I was stunned. I hoped it wasn’t true, but after some research, I found it was true.

These days many of us are finding ways to be fiscally responsible and not spend foolishly. We are watching our money, making sure every dollar is spent wisely and doing our best to stretch our dollars.

Sadly, some charities have not been so financially wise and they’ve made some decisions that haven’t benefited their cause.

In the past, it was a matter of heart for me, – if the cause spoke to me emotionally that was all I needed. These days I do a bit more research when I’m choosing to give to charities or non-profit organizations.

We know that some amount of the donated dollars needs to support the operation itself to pay employees, keep the lights on etc… The question is how much should pay for operation cost and salaries and what percentage is actually going to the recipients, the cause itself?

It took me a while to find a system for researching charities and now I have some favorite sites to help with my research. Hopefully they can help you with yours.

Where To Research Charities

charitywatch.orgLook up specific charities and learn about the rating system. This site offers tips and suggestions and they explain their rating system clearly.

charitynavigator.orgThis site is loaded with articles, tips, information as well as allowing you to look up a specific organization and read its ratings. It’s a full-bodied site that is easy to navigate.

bbb.orgThis links to the Better Business Bureau charities page. It’s a great place to find complaints about the charity.

guidestar.orgYou can search by zip code and find local charities in your area. One of the reasons I like this, is the numerous times I see someone outside of the grocery store soliciting for their charity claiming that it’s local, which is why I wouldn’t have heard of it before. It’s a great database to double-check your local charities and be sure it’s real before you donate.

ag.ca.govThis links to the Sate Attorney Generals office for California. Each state, or area that you live should have  something similar for your local area. It has a searchable database and information pertaining to regulations.

Benefits of Researching Charities:

(1) Be Educated

It’s an empowering feeling to know that organizations you donate to are really doing what they say they do. You can feel great knowing you really are contributing to the betterment of the world and not just someone’s paycheck.

(2) Find Local Places Where You Can Volunteer

Time is money and donating your time and capabilities can benefit a charity as much as your dollars can.

With this link, you can find charities and non-profit organizations in your local area. http://www2.guidestar.org/rxg/update-nonprofit-report/about-the-guidestar-exchange.aspx

(3) Discover New Charities

Another great thing about researching a charity you donate to is discovering new ones you never knew about. There are so many charity organizations don’t have the visibility and popularity of others and they are would benefit wonderful from your research!

I actually found several top rated charities that I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t been looking up another charity.

Use Your Voice

Now, if your favorite charity does use a large percentage of the donated dollars for administrative/operation costs and you are disheartened, you don’t have to stop giving to that charity. You can write them a letter and even find others to support your request for them to change how they handle their spending.

There is power in speaking your voice and gathering others to stand with you, remember that if your favorite charity isn’t being financially wise and you want them to restructure their spending be loud and gather others.

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela Artemis December 1, 2010

Aileen,
This was a wonderfully helpful article.
I’ve actually never thought to research a charity, but I can see now that it’s just good sense. Why give to a charity that isn’t donating the lions share of what it takes in? Thanks so much for all those useful links!

I’d much rather give to a charity than give gifts at Christmas time – I think we all have so much that to help those in real need is the best gift.
Angela Artemis´s last [type] ..How to Rebuild Your Life After The Money Train Crashes &amp Burns

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Aileen December 2, 2010

I’m glad you liked the article – I was truly astounded when I learned about some of the crazy admin costs of some charities. There are so many ways to run a lean/frugal organization it’s really a matter or choice within the organizations.

I agree with you, “to help those in real need is the best gift”

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Living the Balanced Life December 1, 2010

I am also wary of giving to large organizations because of the overhead. We actually help support a few missionaries that we know personally. Our church also gives back to our community.
This weekend we are doing an event that is called Shop with a Hero. A child who is at risk is given a $100 gift card to walmart and will shop with a police officer, firefighter or soldier. They can spend the money how they wish but usually they buy something for themselves and the rest they spend on their family members. We have a tent set up outside to wrap their presents after they shop, and a tent for food and hot chocolate. We have donated financially, but then we are also donating our time as well. Our 17 year old is going to help as well.
I love that money is being spent in the community and we have an opportunity to love and show kindness to someone who may be hurting!
I do think it is important to be wise and know where your money is going! Thanks for the list of resources!
Bernice
Living the Balanced Life´s last [type] ..The walking wounded

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Aileen December 2, 2010

Bernice, how wonderful that you have a few missionaries that you k now personally. It brings it closer to home and heart when we are involved in more ways.
I like the sound of this program, “Shop with a Hero” I’m not sure if I found it online or not – this is the URL I came across and it looks like the one you mention http://www.joyfoundation.org/shopwithahero.html is this the one?

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Joe - shakeoffthegrind December 1, 2010

Aileen,

Thanks so much for passing along these references. This is a very helpful post. Giving is such a mutually benefical act, and is certainly more intrinsicly valuable to the giver. I haven’t always had a specific cause that resonates with me so being able to research and find out where resources can be most helpful and utilized is a very valuable. Thanks for stirring up the giving spirit!

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Aileen December 2, 2010

Hi Joe, I do love celebrating the giving spirit :) I’m glad you found it helpful

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Zengirl @ heart and mind December 1, 2010

Aileen,

I have been involved and volunteered with a few charities to know this problem from inside. It is really sad. Some charity gives only 40 cents away for every $1 you give, some even less so now I ask what % is used for admin cost, before giving.

I like the suggestions on where to check for charities. I would only cautioned you against BBB as it is paid membership program, where charity pay to be member there, might not be 100% honest, so be careful.

I give it to few charities over the years and I know I am happy with them so far.

Preeti
Zengirl @ heart and mind´s last [type] ..Meaningful Happy Holidays From Heart- Not Wallet

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Aileen December 2, 2010

Preeti, thank you for telling us more about the BBB. I love the question you ask before making a donation, “what percentage is used for admin cost” that’s great!

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SmartAboutThings December 2, 2010

Thanks for the good links!
SmartAboutThings´s last [type] ..Why don’t THEY visitors click THEM ads

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Aileen December 2, 2010

Hope they’re helpful :)

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Tess The Bold Life December 2, 2010

Hi Aileen,
Hubs and my favorite charities are Wounded Warriors and The Smile Train.
It makes me crazy to think of the soldiers that come home minus limbs and with brain injuries. One of my twins was born without a right hand. I know that’s what make me “feel” for them. 85% of the money goes directly to fill backpacks with toiletries and stuff when they get to the hospital.

The Smile Train is about doctors who volunteer in developing countries and they operate on children who were born with a cleft lip or palate. The doctors volunteer to do this. I love the fact that child’s life is changed forever. Their smiles become miracles. It’s $100 per child and we first saw this advertised in the USA Today a few years ago.

When I know how the money is spent I love to give. It sure beats spending money on useless stuff (in my eyes).
Tess The Bold Life´s last [type] ..How to Live a Shimmering and Soul-Satisfying Life

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Aileen December 2, 2010

Tess, thank you for sharing these two charities!! I wasn’t familiar with either of them. I love sharing great organizations and giving great ones more light so others know about them. Thank you for sharing!!

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Evita December 2, 2010

Hi Aileen

This is great information, as I find more and more people want to move away from the material side of the holiday season and more and more towards a heart-centered, love, kindness and compassion based type of “giving”.

It is too bad that some ruin it for others to be trusted… I guess with anything else in life, but thank you for bringing together all the great links in how people can make the best decision to truly help, where help is needed.

And I so agree with Tess, I think many more of us would give, if we knew where that money was actually going or how it was helping. But on the other side of things too, we can always volunteer our time and talents, if we feel uncomfortable with the use of the money :)
Evita´s last [type] ..The 2nd Annual Big Evolving Beings Holiday Giveaway 2010

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Hi Evita, – I like your thoughts on this “we can always vol­un­teer our time and tal­ents” so wonderfully true!

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MaGeezy December 4, 2010

Personally, I’ve never thought about checking on how these charities handle the financial resources that they have & get. so thanks for sharing your thoughts and these wonderful resources.
MaGeezy´s last [type] ..A big Thanks to all the Like-rs of this page Weve officially started! Get ready for some good vibes!

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Thanks for visiting :) glad you found it helpful

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Savvy Saver Girl December 4, 2010

Hi Aileen,
Great article and list of resources! It’s unfortunate to see some people take advantage of the generosity and goodwill of others. A little research can help get your dollar into the rights hands.
~ Miste
Savvy Saver Girl´s last [type] ..Shop Smart for the Holidays – Check Prices Online &amp Save Money!

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Hi Miste – yes just a little research can go a long way. – something like charity giving is worth looking into :)

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Keith Davis December 5, 2010

Hi Aileen
Always a tricky one… how much charities spend on administration.

I organise a yearly collection for Christian Aid so I’ll use your links to get a few facts.
No point putting your head in the sand, best to know where the money is going.

Thanks for taking the time to do the research.
Keith Davis´s last [type] ..Look for the Shining Eyes

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Hi Keith. How wonderful that you organize a yearly collection – truly wonderful that you give your talents, mind and time – such wonderful generosity!

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Andrea DeBell - britetalk December 5, 2010

Hi Aileen! This holiday season I decided to start a charity with two friends to raise funds here in the USA to benefit a Angolan charity for children: http://www.ocsiangola.org/Site/Welcome.html
All three of us have met Sister Domingas (the Angolan nun that created and runs the Angola project) and my two friends have been to Angola and I’ve seen her project. All the money she raises goes straight to feed the children, run the schools, and orphanages. The non-profit we are creating will help support her efforts and there will be no overhead either. We are really excited about this project!
Thanks for the beautiful reminder this holiday season. Loving blessings!
Andrea DeBell – britetalk´s last [type] ..Kickstart an Abundant Life the Easy Way

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Andrea – this is brilliant & wonderful news!!! I LOVE that you and friends started a charity!!!!!

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John Sherry December 8, 2010

What saddens me Aileen is that charities in the UK have become the new pests – stopping you in the street (outside banks!!), knocking on your door at home, sending you endless leaflets and bag drops, calling you now and again. I know they have to get donations but the way they are going about it is getting seedy. They may need to look up the word ‘charity’. It upsets me because it’s off-putting and harms they very people they are seeking to help. Hope the US is better and more noble.
John Sherry´s last [type] ..Hope In A Hundred Words

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Hi John, I do some of that behavior here too sometimes. I agree that it’s ‘off-putting’ feeling gets in the way of helping the people they seek to help.

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Cole Stan December 9, 2010

People find Christmas as the best time for sharing all their blessings so help to charities is in-demand during this season. Sadly, not all funds are given to their own purpose. It is still much be better if an organization is comprised of volunteers who are willing to exert an effort for free.
Cole Stan´s last [type] ..Engraved Lucky Horseshoe Money Clip for Men

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Louise December 9, 2010

I found this very helpful – I think most of us HOPE our donations are going where we want them to go but I certainly am going to check each one out. Thanks for your research. I enjoy your articles very much.

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Glad you found it helpful. – I know, “hoping” isn’t really enough is it? – but we can feel better about our donations when we know for sure that it’s going to he right place.

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Roy December 12, 2010

Personally I prefer using Kiva.org than charities per se. It’s the whole “give a man a fish” vs “teach him to fish” approach.
Roy´s last [type] ..The Birthday Report

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Hi Roy, I’m not familiar with the link you shared, I’ll take a look. I too see the great value in “teach a man to fish” so he may eat for life. Thank you for sharing

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jonathanfigaro December 13, 2010

We must always learn to give back. Charities are a great way to show pieces of our soul and hearts content. As long as we give with out heart, we have made Christmas worth the phrase, ” tis the season.” Great Post.

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Hi Jonathan, thank you for your wonderful comment. I like your thought ” Char­i­ties are a great way to show pieces of our soul and hearts con­tent. As long as we give with out heart, we have made Christ­mas worth the phrase, ” tis the sea­son.” “

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Beth Owens December 15, 2010

Finding legit charities is always a headache job, you have done a wonderful job Aileen. I just stick to http://www.unicef.org/ to make my donations. BTW i will try the resources you have listed here ,seems all are legit.

Thanks
Beth
Beth Owens´s last [type] ..Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts

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Aileen December 15, 2010

Hi Beth, thank you for adding that link!

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Mike Ramsey December 21, 2010

Aileen,

thanks for the religious topic!

I am very fond of this kind of thing.

Well, what I feel is that there are different kind of people some people are in favor of charity but some people are miser towards it and they don’t want to spend.

But what I realized is that if you participate in this kind of goodness then you are not loosing anything but you are getting lots of things that you can’t get anywhere.
Mike Ramsey´s last [type] ..How To Get Rid Of Sweaty Palms

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