Five Easy Rules to Donating

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s likely you might be feeling more charitable this time of year. Or perhaps you’ve already been solicited for a donation. With so many charities needing assistance, it can be difficult to choose. And how can you be sure your donation goes where it’s supposed to? Below you will find five easy rules of donating to ensure your donation helps those in need.

1. Give in-kind gifts in lieu of money

Let’s face it, writing a check or making a monetary donation online is fast and easy. But how can you be sure your money goes toward the mission? A simple way to ensure your donation goes directly to where you want it is to donate goods in lieu of money. Most charities provide a list of in-kind donations needed, or a wish list. They can range from practical items such as food or diapers to more extravagant items such as color copiers for the office, or spa packages for raffle items.

When you give an item, you have more control over your donation, ensuring that it benefits the intended recipients.

2. Declare your monetary donation when submitting

If you still prefer giving money, you can usually specify where exactly you want your money to go. For example, most charities have a comment box when you make an online donation, in which you can state if you want your donation to go toward administration, research, goods, etc. If you are writing a check you can usually submit a donation form with a checklist allotting the money to specific items. If a charity does not allow you to declare where and how you want your money spent, then you should avoid sending money and perhaps look for another charity to support.

3. Research the company

Most people will look at a charity’s website to learn about the company and where the money goes. However, a company isn’t going to post anything they don’t want you to know. While a website is great to learn the company’s mission and needs, look at other websites to see if your donation will really make a difference. Here are a few to help in your search.

Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org/) – Focused on “being a guide to intelligent giving,” Charity Navigator is a user-friendly website to check up on your favorite organization. Simply type in the name of the charity and you can find financial reports, historical data and user reviews. Their four-star rating system provides an easy snapshot to help users determine what charities they want to support.

 Glassdoor (http://www.glassdoor.com/index.htm) – One of the best ways to know for sure that a charity is upstanding is to check with the people who work there. Glassdoor is a great resource that allows employees to review the company they work for. If a charity has high turnover or lots of disgruntled employees, then they probably aren’t the best. Since most nonprofits tend to offer lower salaries, many people work for the mission and not the pay. If the employees are not connected to the cause then maybe you shouldn’t be either.

4. Donate locally instead of nationally

Another way to ensure your donation is directed to where you want it is to support local charities. By giving locally your donation can have an immediate impact. Plus your donation will improve the community you live in, versus helping the general public. Larger organizations often have multiple goals, and the money usually gets divided among many programs. The larger the goal a charity has, the longer to see results. Local charities tend to have smaller goals and direct the money to fewer, higher-impact programs.

5. Volunteer

You’ve probably heard the old adage that time is money and volunteering is no exception. Volunteering your time, and talents, is one of the best ways to help your favorite charity. Most nonprofits operate on small budgets – which usually means fewer staff to get the job done. By volunteering you not only help the charity reach their goals, but you also get a feeling of accomplishment and a stronger sense of community. You don’t have to donate money to make a difference. Whether you are great at social media or helping at events, your particular skills can help your charity in more ways than you imagined.

By following these simple rules you can be sure your donation will benefit those in need.

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December 6, 2012 | 9:36 AM

Great tips, Frances – thank you!

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