It’s the time of the year for holiday cheer and charitable giving! But if you’re working hard to pay off debt, then you may want to make sure your donations are being used wisely. Or, if you can’t afford to donate this year, you might be looking for other ways to contribute.
With the abundance of charities out there, it can be hard to understand how to best donate your time and money. Fortunately, a little technology and creativity can help you figure it out. Below we’ll talk about how to choose a charity wisely so your hard earned money can have the biggest impact possible – and how you can give if you don’t have the funds to do so.
How to Research the Best Charity for Your Cause
Whether you have a cause near and dear to your heart or you’re searching for something new to contribute to, the sheer amount of charities and ways to give can be overwhelming. To make matters more complicated, giving while you’re in debt means it’s more important than ever to make sure your money is going to be utilized well. Luckily, technology can rescue you from analysis paralysis. A recent article in The New York Times shows you a few apps to help you choose:
Guidestar is an organization which shows you the IRS filings for 1.8 million nonprofits. This is information you can use to see exactly how much your chosen nonprofit earns and spends so you can see just where your donation money will go. The site also has reviews of each charity from experts and other individuals.
Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance
You already know the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as a useful tool for discovering reviews and ratings on just about any business you might consider using. However, did you know that this is also a useful tool for finding reviews on your chosen charity as well? They don’t list as many charities as Guidestar, but they do list more information than the financials, including how the charity is operated and its effectiveness.
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If you not only need to find out information about your desired charity – but also need to choose a charity to begin with – then this is the tool for you. Charity Navigator helps you find charities that match your interests and then offers information on their financials and spending to help you decide which is best for you.
Whichever you choose, keep in mind that The New York Times article mentions that you shouldn’t focus too much on the “overhead ratio” of the charity:
“’Generally, a good benchmark for a worthwhile charity is having at least 75 percent of income spent on programs, or the nonprofit’s mission’, according to Sandra Miniutti, a spokeswoman for Charity Navigator.”
For more information on these charities and other things to watch out for when you donate, visit the original article by The New York Times.
How to Give – Minus the Dollars and Cents
It’s important to keep in mind this holiday season (and always!) that charity doesn’t begin or end with the wallet. If you love the idea of contributing to worthy causes but simply have no money left over at the end of the month, then you can give in ways that make more sense to your situation. As stated in this article by The Wall Street Journal, “you don’t have to be a millionaire to be charitable.”
So how can you give back without pulling out your wallet? Here are a just a few ideas to get you started:
Many charities need a lot more than money – they need man (and woman) power! Whether it be a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, events run by your local community or religious organization, or fundraisers to help a specific cause, there are plenty of ways to give time and make a big positive impact. And an extra bonus – you may just have fun while you’re at it!
Donate Your Skills
Are you particularly skilled at math or reading? You could volunteer to tutor children at underprivileged schools. Do you know your way around some yarn and knitting needles? You could knit sweaters and socks for the homeless in your community for the winter. Are you an organizational and networking master? Plan a fundraiser to help your entire community give to a charity in need. The list of ideas goes on and on and a little creativity can go a long way.
This time of year is a great time to give back as well as a time to consider how you may want to do more in the new year. If you’re short on funds, then you can give back by using your time and skills. And if you’re short on time, even a small donation can go along way if you do your research. Just make sure that any funds you use or give to give back this or next year are accounted for in your monthly budget. That way you can feel good about what you’re doing and maintain your own road to financial freedom – a win/win.
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