Sunday, February 26, 2012

Smart philanthropy

Charitable Donations

Was talking with my friend, Josie, at brunch this morning after attending a charity fundraiser last night when I realized that my understanding of philanthropy is pitiful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” philanthropy…  Rather, this discussion is about charitable donations for the rest of us.
After a couple of hours of research, here are some of the salient points.
According to the National Center for Charitable statistics, over 1 million charities exist in the United States.  Total revenues and assets are in excess of $1 and $2 trillion, respectively, per year.  Cha ching!!!!  (Hmmmm… With about half of that amount, I could live happily ever after.  Ha ha.)
Since there are sooooooo many charities in existence, how do you choose?
1.  Decide what you can donate.  Do you have time, goods and services, or cash.  Fortunately, most charitable donations are tax deductible; they can be a fun way to give Uncle Sam the proverbial middle finger around April 15th.
2.  Pick a charity based on your likes and dislikes.  For instance, if you are an animal lover, check out the local humane society.  If you are a graphic designer, look for organizations that may need assistance with creation of a new logo, promotional materials, or pamphlets.  If you work in a restaurant, check out the food bank and see if they need non-perishable food items.  Find charities based on your hobbies, professional activities, personal causes, and so forth.  They can be local, national, or international organizations.
3.  Do your research.  Is the charity reputable and in good standing?  This is where the process gets a tad dicey.  Search the charity on the internet and get a snapshot of the organization.  What are their overhead and administrative costs?  How much of your donation actually goes to the intended recipient?  For instance, charities that have endowments to cover overhead will use less of the donation for ancillary expenses.  Does it have a good rating on web sites like: 

4.  Now… you can make an educated decision about your donation.   

Who knew that lending a helping hand could be so complicated?    

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