Many of us want to give back in some way. Charitable giving is a cornerstone of good finances. When you give your money to charity, though, you probably want to know that you’re truly helping. So, before you write your next donation check, think about how effective your charitable giving really is.
How Much Should You Give?
Charitable giving is something you have to consider for yourself, and how it fits into your finances. How much you can give depends on your own money situation, and where you stand. There are all sorts of formulas for giving, from giving 10% of your income to your church, to sending a $50 check to the food bank each month.
You should also consider your own budget. When you are on a limited budget, you might not be able to give as much money as you would like. Just as we learn that you should take care of yourself during an airline problem before you take care of others, it’s important for you to make sure that you are financially stable enough to give.
However, you don’t have to wait until you’re wealthy to give. You might be surprised at how much you can give when you make it a priority, as well as how effective your charitable giving can be, even when it’s only a few dollars a month to start.
Think about what matters to you, and how you want to help, and then make it a priority to give what you can. As you become better able to help others, you can boost the amount that you give over time.
Is Your Charitable Giving Effective?
Of course, many of us aren’t content with writing a check and receiving a tax benefit. We like to know that our money is going to a good cause. My husband and I, after a lot of soul-searching, cut the amount we were giving to our church and instead began shifting those resources to other organizations. We weren’t sure how effective our charitable giving was when it went to this organization that very publicly uses its resources for a variety of projects and investments that we don’t always agree with. Instead, we wanted to show our son that we can help others in the community. We’ve shifted our regular charitable giving toward local food pantries and shelters, as well as to other causes that we identify with.
While I like local giving in terms of finances, another way to effectively give to charity is to engage in service. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to give, you can still your time and your talents. In some ways, your time is even more valuable than your money. You can write a check — or even set up automatic withdrawals for certain charities — without it taking up much time or thought. Actually volunteering your time takes a little more out of you. Doing good in that way also connects you to your community. My son is getting involved with more service-oriented clubs and activities, and I have been trying to find a cause I am passionate about in the community. Sometimes, if you really want to connect to your community, actually doing service is one of the most effective ways to engage in charitable giving.
Another way to make sure that your charitable giving is effective is to do your homework. Sites like Charity Navigator in the United States and Charity Intelligence in Canada help you see where the money is going. I’ve stopped giving to charities after looking at Charity Navigator to see that only about 40% to 60% of the money raised actually helps the cause; the rest of it goes to highly-paid executives and fundraising efforts that aren’t always effective. It’s disheartening to see this, so I like to identify the charities that are most effective and put my money (and sometimes my time) in those places.
What do you think about charitable giving? Do you think it’s good to give back? How do you give to charity, and make sure your gift is effective?