Lifestyle

Giving Makes You Rich: How To Choose The Right Charity

As important as it is to put money towards your savings and investments, it’s important to also remember that “no one ever became poor by giving.” I truly believe that karma is a boomerang – it will come right back to you when you open your heart (and wallet) to those who are less fortunate than you. The issue that  many face when deciding to give is finding a charity that is deserving of their hard-earned money. Although it’s tempting to break down to  a donation request with a picture of a big eyed starving orphan child (or kitten), follow these guidelines for how to choose the right charity that could use your help the most:

Choose a cause

What are you passionate about? Do you love animals? Care about the environment? Children? There are hundreds of charities for each of these causes as well as many more, so once you’ve narrowed down how you would like to make a change, you can begin to research which charity would be the best fit for you. I personally gave often to St.Judes hospital in NYC. Even though children generally really frighten me, I had a hard time saying no to the pictures of poor sick kids going through chemo. It is actually recommended, though, to give to charities who do NOT ask for it – since a large portion of your donation will go to that kind of fundraising. Plus, hospitals actually get huge amounts of money donated to them – so your cash may actually go a lot further with a smaller organization like a local soup kitchen who is just scraping by.

Do your research

There are many ways to research organizations, and one of the best is Charity Navigator. It was chosen as the best charity review site by Kiplinger, and allows you to search by topic (like tsunami victims), or by charity name. They also provide Top 10 lists, like “10 Highly-Rated Charities with Low Paid CEOs” or “10 Charities Expanding in a Hurry.” Guide Star and The Better Business Beureu’s Wise Giving Alliance are also great resources for evaluating a charity.

Some sites suggest that you look at the organization’s Form 990 from the IRS to evaluate how they spend their money, but this can be tedious and confusing. I suggest just doing a google search for headlines about the organization, or check out their ratings and reviews if they are listed on Yelp.

Think local & Donate time

Another easy way to choose a charity is to support one that is working within your community, since you can see the effects of their work for yourself. This also gives you the opportunity to donate your time by volunteering. Depending on the organization, it might be more valuable for them if you donate your time instead of (or in addition to) money. This is especially true for local charities that need help manning booths at events or walking dogs at shelters.

Check out Justgive.org and enter your zip code to find organizations in your area. I work closely with newyorkcares.org which allows me to sign up on their website and volunteer for projects like playing bingo with seniors (seriously – it’s hilarious) located in my neighborhood in NYC.

How much to give?

Keeping in mind that your donation is tax deductible, set aside an amount you would like to give for the year. Even if you do not give it all at once, consider getting into the charitable habit by making small regular donations throughout the year, just as you make regular contributions to your 401(k) or other saving accounts.

You can also give by getting others to donate. If you’re getting married, for example, you might want to consider suggesting guests make a donation in your name, rather than buying you yet another ugly towel set. JustGive.org allows users to create an online philanthropic bridal registry for free that lets guests choose from a list of charities favored by the couple.

So now you have no excuse to not give a little extra cash to someone who needs it a lot more than you need yet another pair of skinny jeans. The money will come right back to you – and so will the good karma. Who knows, it may end up being priceless.

One Comment

  1. Great post. I think you’re right charity donations are a great way to help promote the cause you donate to. However, you definitely should do some research before committing to donating.

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