Charity: how will you do it?

As soon as I could talk, animals, especially strays, were my thing: finding and cleaning them up. Then trying to figure out what to do with them since my parents were not about to play host to a menagerie no matter how cool I thought it’d be.

They’re still my deeply beloved cause but of course these intervening years from childhood through to independent adulthood had to shift my financial focus to more urgent, immediate, needs in supporting my family. And since becoming financially stable enough to reconsider more than personal needs and wants, as we all do, I’ve also become inundated with the myriad needs and causes for which organizations, foundations, grassroots and corporate alike, clamor for attention and donations.

The difficult issues which our world is facing, globally, domestically, socially and developmentally are complex and become absolutely dizzying when I contemplate how to make the slightest difference.

But I’ve remembered the sage advice from watching Sports Night during my college years: you’ve just got to get in the game.

It’s our turn

As I develop our annual budget and plan for upcoming years, it’s a priority to build in a new dedicated line item meant for these issues whether it is intended to be a direct donation or money that means PiC and I will have the ability to give our time or some other sort of thing that is appropriate to the causes that mean the most to us.

After designating the actual budget, we’ll have to talk about what causes and specifically to whom we might be sending our money.

My charity tends to be a little closer to home, generally speaking, so I don’t think of it as charity so much as putting my money (time, expertise, or other efforts) where my heart is. That always informs my choices as much as any other factor of decision-making.

Historically, I’ve given money to organizations and people I know personally. Animal shelters that I’ve done volunteer work for, family in need, to fund the building of other charitable organizations that would go on to do good works in the community. Lovedrop, recently the brainchild of our PF blogger community’s own J. Money of Budgets are Sexy & his partner Nate St. Pierre that gave to the community, funded by the community.

And of course, I’m always on the lookout for ways to incorporate giving into everyday life.

One such find: A non profit organization called the I Do Foundation gives couples a way to create registries that are linked through the umbrella of the I Do Foundation. When guests purchase gifts online from the list, your charity of choice receives a certain percentage of that purchase in cash back. This is applicable to a limited number of stores and to online purchases unfortunately, but it’s still a neat option for those purchases that would occur online anyway.

How can you get in the game?

When looking into new charities, my recommendation would be to make your first stop at Charity Navigator to check that they use donation money wisely. That means that they’re not spending a vast amounts or percentages of donated money on overhead costs like extraordinary and expensive fundraising campaigns and other extraneous expenses rather than the use it was originally intended for: the cause itself.

Whether it’s feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless or tending to medical needs, those aims have to be the primary beneficiary of any donations. A well-managed charity does have to constantly generate new funds to survive and thrive, and should eventually be able to make investments on its own behalf at a certain stage of life, so some overhead is always necessary but it ought to be a reasonable amount in comparison to the whole. Charity Navigator does a good job of guiding you in making the determination of how well the charity carries out their mission and you can make your decision from that point.

Do you have favorite charities or causes that you support?

About Revanche

Revanche writes the personal finance blog A Gai Shan Life.