Most charities seem to amp up their pleas this time of year. It makes sense. Many people feel more like giving either for philanthropic reasons or to get that last boost for their tax deductions before the year is out. Personally I try to spread my giving throughout the year because it is easier for me to budget.
My mother explained her philosophy of charitable donations when I started getting an allowance. You can't save the world. Pick a few charities that mean something to you and give what you can afford. I still follow that advice.
I will add one bit of my own advice when I teach this to my son - make sure the bulk of the money the charity collects goes to the cause and not for 'administrative costs'. A person near and dear to my heart gives to any and every charity that calls or comes to the door regardless of the fact that most of them spend 80-90% on administrative costs (which probably includes expensive homes and cars for the administrators). Some people would never give money to "a bum on the street because he is just going to spend it on alcohol." but don't think twice about giving it to a smooth talking snake oil salesman who pockets most, if not all, of the money. Which is worse?
The Better Business Bureau has a great guide for charitable giving which I encourage anyone with any concerns to peruse.
For most major national charities there is a difference between giving to the national organization and the local chapter. The national organization pools its monies for the big research grants and other projects. Whereas the local chapters send a portion to the national organization and the rest is spent helping people locally. When I volunteered at Komen I think it was 25% to National and the rest granted out locally. BOTH are important.
I do not give money to anyone that calls me on the phone. Unless I see the 562 area code. I usually answer those calls"Ok, put us down for $25" (or $50 or $100, whatever I know is in the budget. The Whittier College student on the other end is usually stunned into silence for a few minutes until I explain I recognize the number. Sincere apologies to the last one that called and was faced with the brunt of my wrath. My only excuse was the phone rang just as J was drifting off to sleep after a particularly rough day. The check is in the mail.
I do not give money or buy anything from people that come to my door, unless it is one of the neighborhood kids. I lost count of the number of checks I have written to Cole Canyon Elementary and Thompson Middle School before my son was even born. They all know I am a soft touch. One even came over with a boy friend to ask me to buy misletoe knowing I would turn him away but not her. All I can say is, pay back will be expected starting next year, ok neighbors? ha ha!
I have mixed feeling about buying goods that are specially marked to help a charity. Buy an overpriced bag of pink ribbon shaped pasta and the company donates a set amount to Komen and they get the tax deduction. Or buy my regular pasta and send the extra money directly to Komen myself giving them more money and me the tax deduction. But, unlike my friend Carol, the Pastry Chef, I still buy Girl Scout cookies every year instead of just making my own.
So who do I donate my money to? My giving priorities:
- church, including weekly regular donations and special collections
- school, used to just be our alma mater Whittier College, but now that my little man is in school this area is expanding.
- charities that are important to my family and friends - if that person is important to me then so is their cause, Some examples: Arthritis Foundation, The Elks, too many cancer related events to mention, Make a Wish Foundation, a hospice that helped with end of life care for a friends brother, Waves for Awassa to provide safe clean water for people in Ethiopia.
So that's how I handle my donation budget. I'd be curious to hear how you handle monetary donations.