The Process of Choosing The Perfect Charity to Support

ChildrenChoosing a charity to support can be a time consuming process depending on how much you plan to contribute. It is easy to throw five or ten dollars into a bucket around Christmas time to help others, but it is a difficult task to choose a charity when you are giving a monthly sum or a large yearly contribution. The less you donate, usually, the less time required to make your decision. But, even if you have a small budget, you might want your money to do the most good. You want it to have value for the recipients and not just the charity alone. The charity should be the conduit through which your money travels to the ultimate end. To help you select a charity, we have composed a five point list outlining the process of choosing the perfect charity to support.

Your Interests:

Individuals often select charities to support because of their interests or life experiences. Many charities, in fact, started because members of families were left to grieve others who were killed through violence or died from diseases. Once a family loses one if its members, the others gravitate to charities that help a particular cause. If little is known about a disease, funds are solicited to help others, so that they do not have to die in the same way. Enacting laws to stop a behavior requires money and is another example of how families help to change things.

Likewise, if your interests lay with animals, you might donate to the local shelter or you may wish to help protect and preserve endangered species. One of the easiest ways to choose a charity is by listening to your heart. And, if the organization is legitimate, then there is nothing wrong with donating to a cause that most interests you. One caution that might help you in this regard, though, is giving to individuals that claim to have a disease. Many fraudsters have taken money by claiming they needed expensive drugs or operations. Do not be fooled by these people. Just walk away. They may pull at your heart strings by making themselves look like victims, but, in fact, they are just stealing your money. Real charities help many people, not just one.

Registered Charity:

Before giving a significant amount of money to any charity, you should first inquire as to its validity or legality. All charities must be registered, and although there is nothing wrong with you providing funds to support groups that are not legally registered such as the local kids' baseball team, if you are providing monies to an unknown entity, the organization should have a registration number that can be verified. In most Western countries, the law requires that these registration numbers be printed on all advertising materials.

Further, newer charities that may be in the infant stages looking for funds, but are not yet able to provide tax receipts do exist. The tax deduction issue may or may not impact your decision to donate to this particular charity. While the organization may not be doing anything illegal, you may be donating a significant sum that cannot be reflected on your income tax return. To verify a charity's registration in the UK, you can view the "The Charity Commission" website. To check in Canada, read the "Canada Revenue Agency Charities Listing" page, and in the US, go to the "Internal Revenue Service Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations" page.

Be Aware of Campaigns or Drives:

There are certain times of the year that a particular charity solicits funds through special drives or campaigns. These times of the year are the same every year and can be quickly verified by calling your local charity office and sometimes the chamber of commerce or local newspaper. Most charities have toll-free numbers where you can inquire about someone coming door-to-door or individuals soliciting in the streets. Usually, if it is not the week or month when the charity actively seeks donations, then chances are the people are fraudsters. Generally speaking, it is best to mark your calendar with the times of the year when the major charities promote their big campaigns. Many calendars even have the events printed on them already. By staying aware, you are less likely to give your money away to thieves. And, of course, if these people do come to your door, call the police and report them.

Saving Money for Natural Disasters:

Another way to choose the perfect charity to support is to send monies for natural disasters. This may seem like a defeatist attitude to wait for a devastating event to happen, but really, these people are in the most need at a particular moment. War breaks out in a country, famine and drought may hit, or hurricanes and tsunamis can wreak incredible destruction upon the residents of a community. If you are not able to give to more than one charity, then you might save up to give to the people of a country devastated by natural and civil disasters.

Administrative Costs:

This is the probably the biggest issue when deciding which charity to support. No-one wants to send money to an organization that squanders the funds on big executive salaries and perks, telemarketing fees, lavish parties, or fancy offices. Yet, in reality, this is exactly what happens everyday to millions of donors and their monies. Charities must disclose how their monies are spent, and in particular, governments require that the administrative costs are clearly and understandably disclosed. Governments also have legal thresholds for percentages of money used on administrative costs, but you would be surprised at how many organizations consistently and continually exceed these amounts by large percentages. If you want your money to go the people who need it most, be sure to inquire about the charity's cost structure. Then go to the government websites listed above and verify the numbers.

Finally, giving is a wonderful experience. It allows you to help others who are less fortunate. Whether your contribution is small or large, it goes a long way to provide food, water, shelter and safety for many suffering individuals. Without donations, the abject misery would continue for many human beings and animals. Never decide not to give because you believe you cannot make a difference. Every little bit adds up to a large sum. Everyone can make a difference in someone else's life, and it is important for all of us to understand this and give when we can.