“I’m so overwhelmed as to which charity I should donate money to this Christmas that I do nothing.” G.R.
The charity catalogs begin arriving in November and if you have not donated by December the guilt can get heavy and the stress can begin to build. Laid out on the dining room table are pictures of hungry children’s faces, smiling children petting a calf, pleas for help to end torture, support women, protect wildlife and save the environment. You only make so much money and yet you want to help everyone, so what do you do? Some people become so overwhelmed by the fact that they cannot donate to all the charities that they “freeze” and consequently end up doing nothing.
It is a common occurrence, not just at the giving holiday season, but at other times throughout the year as well. When all you have to donate would buy a dinner for two at the local pizza parlor, then how can you be of help to the big charities of the world? This way of thinking is understandable, but not necessarily helpful. Any amount of money when added to donations from hundreds, thousands and millions of people becomes a substantial donation; and these small donations are counted on by non-profit organizations just as much as larger ones. The question becomes how to narrow down your choices and work within your budget.
1. Consider your budget. Take a look at how much money you can donate, regardless of how small or large the amount. Is there enough for a one time donation, or a contribution charged to your credit card on a monthly basis? A $100 donation can go to a single organization or divided into $25 allotments can go to four of your favorite charities. Once you know how much you can donate move to the next step.
2. Make a list. Write down all the charities that are doing work close to your heart. This might include women’s issues, children in need, animal rights, environmental concerns or food safety. Include any local, as well as global groups that stand up for what you believe and are passionate. For example, if helping women is a concern then donate to your local Domestic Abuse center and then sponsor the education of a woman through the wonderful Women for Women International organization. In this way it is not just a donation of money, but an investment in the organization that is helping to better the lives of others. You are now a part of being the change.
3. Be consistent. Many organizations thrive on your donations made throughout the year. When you choose to support a cause then you become an important part of their ability to function. Your membership of twenty-five, fifty or a hundred dollars provides working capital for the Natures Conservancy to purchase land, for Amnesty International to speak for the voiceless, for Doctors without Borders to set up medical camps and carry on their work in the world. You are the engine that drives the success of these organizations and consistent donations allows for long range planning and action.
4. Create a fund raising group. Invite your friends over for a discussion on charitable donations and you might be surprised to learn that they are as overwhelmed as you are. Propose to them a type of investment club, where instead of pooling money to buy stocks from Wall Street, together you invest your money in charitable organizations you all agree are doing good in the world. Agree on a sum that each person can donate, or put a bowl in the center and each member contribute what they can without calling attention to the amount. Each person can recommend four charities whose work they support. You can go so far as to do research on these non-profit 501(c)(3) tax deductible charities before voting on which charities will receive your groups contributions.
To make your donation investments all the more powerful you can now join with others through on-line websites designed for people to donate to a wide variety of causes. Charity Navigator is one site that does the research and rates charities on their financial health, transparency, and accountability. Another site is Crowdrise, an online site that is “raising tons of money for charity and having the most fun in the world while doing it.” According to their website the Crowdrise community was named a “Top 25 Best Global Philanthropist” by Barron’s.
Using social networking to pass the word and educate people these sites are raising millions of dollars to create a better world. All donations, regardless of the amount, empowers both the giver and the charity to create powerful and positive change in the world; and that includes you and whatever you can donate.