Friday, December 19, 2008

Purposeful Giving

This is the time of year when many of us get into the spirit of giving and donate our time or money to various charitable causes. It's also a time when many nonprofits conduct their biggest fundraising drives. Salvation Army bell ringers and toy drives for underprivileged children are as closely associated with the holiday season as poinsettia plants and Santa Claus. It feels good to chip in for a good cause, but how much thought do you put into it?

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are well over a million public charities in the United States alone, and the number is growing rapidly. Most of these organizations are ethically run by people with the best of intentions. Some are well funded and effective, others less so. The last time you gave money or donated your time to perform for a benefit concert, did you do any checking on the charity you were supporting? Neither did I, but I should have. If you think about it, charitable contributions are really just another expense in your budget, and there's no reason they shouldn't be subjected to the same sort of scrutiny as your equipment purchases or grocery bill.

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't give to charity. I am suggesting that it is wise to actively choose your charities, rather than passively let them choose you. It may feel awkward or wrong to refrain from pulling out your wallet when you get an unsolicited phone call from a good cause or are confronted directly by a fundraiser on the street. But giving charitably only to organizations that happen to cross your path is sort of like only buying the food that's prominently displayed at eye level on store shelves (often the most profitable items for the store, but not necessarily the best for you).

Please take some time to consider what causes are most important to you, and where you think the greatest need exists. It takes a little research to find the best charities to suit your values, but there are some great online tools available to help you for free. Please check out these sites for starters: Charity Navigator, Guidestar

And remember, if money is tight (as it is for many of us these days), donating your time or skills to a really worthy cause can be a great way to help make a difference at any time of the year. Best wishes to you all this holiday.

No comments: