3 Things to Do BEFORE You Donate to a Charity
Why We Give...Why This Topic
While it's obviously not acted on by all people, it is evident that we humans have not just the capacity to help others, but more importantly, a basic drive to assist those who are less fortunate. The desire is built into us. It's part of what makes us human. It's one of the true beauties of humanity.
Whether we have little or lots -- time, physical abilities, food, funds, furniture, etc. -- we're driven from within to offer whatever we have to those who have less of it.
Unfortunately, there are uncharitable -- that is, unloving -- people in this world who prey on those who want to act on this basic human kindness. While lacking a decent moral compass, these people do not lack cleverness or the ability to pass themselves off as people of light, rather than darkness.
This lens is presented as a simple guide -- three distinct steps -- to help those who want to do GOOD do the most GOOD without lining the pockets of those who spitefully use charities as cloaks for naughty-not-nice sources for their ill-gotten gain.
Thank you for your giving heart!
[Image: Lens host (Guy) with local kids in Ethiopia.]
Step One: Check Your Heart
Your first task -- BEFORE you give -- is to check your heart. Determine why you want to give.
Look into your heart and answer the following:
-- Are you giving so you'll receive praise or will your gift be the fruit of a sincere heart?
-- Do you have motives self-ISH or self-LESS?
-- Would you provide this gift of time, effort, property, or money even if nobody knew?
-- Do you expect something in return?
The point is that giving is best done and most rewarding when it is done from a pure heart. Even in our modern hyper-connected world, it is best if you bless others without fanfare.
Gifts are not very meaningful to either the givers or receivers if they are given under compulsion, because of guilty feelings, or for any other selfish reason.
So, check your heart before you give. If your motives are not pure, then take a few moments or hours or even days to align your heart with the good your gift is intended to achieve. If you do this first, both you and your recipient will be blessed.
From the Back Cover: "Public service is a way of life for Americans; giving is a part of our national character. But compassionate instincts and generous spirits aren’t enough, says veteran urban activist Robert D. Lupton. In this groundbreaking guide, he reveals the disturbing truth about charity: all too much of it has become toxic, devastating to the very people it’s meant to help."
Lupton goes beyond describing the problem and effectively prescribes a cure.
Not all giving involves cash. You can give your time, too, as demonstrated so well by Habitat for Humanity.
This book tells the sometimes dramatic and always touching story of the global presence known as Habitat for Humanity.
Links About Giving
- How Can I Contribute to Charities Without Donating Money?
Giving is not only about money. It's also about time, your own creativity, things you no longer want or need, and even your own blood. This Lifehacker piece has several ideas for giving without donating money. Read the comments section for even more
Connect with These Charitable Organizations
** These are a few of my favorite giving organizations.
** Be sure to share your favorites before you leave this lens!
Formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has been leading the fight to end type 1 diabetes through both research and advocacy. This one hits home for me, as a young person who is very close to my heart is living with T1D. Watch this t
- Make-A-Wish Foundation
Founded in 1980, "the Make-A-Wish Foundation has enriched the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wish-granting network." Growing from the spontaneous actions of U.S. Customs Officer Tommy Austin as he worked to ful
Step Two: Check the IRS
While it is important to simply give where it's needed and where you have opportunity, if you're going to give to an organized charity, I recommend that you check first with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
There are two reasons for this step.
First, if the charity has registered itself with the IRS and been approved as a charitable organization, it is an indication that the organization is legitimate. Keeping in mind that there even crooks can register with the IRS, it's still important to move on to the third step before you give.
Second, while I don't for the notion that you should only give if you can write the donation off your taxes, the current tax laws allow for such a deduction, so you may be able to give a bit more knowing that your tax burden may be reduced. [NOTE: I am not a tax professional, so please don't take my word for it. Consult with your tax adviser about any potential tax benefits.]
With these two considerations in mind, here are a couple places for you to check the charities you're interested in against the IRS database of registered charities.
- Organizations Eligible to Receive Tax-Deductible Charitable Contributions
This is the IRS' main landing page for determining whether or not an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible donations. You can search the Publication 78 database via the links on this page or use other links to find the types of organiz
- Eligible Organizations Select Check
This is a simple online search tool you can use to search for exempt organizations, and the check their status. Using this tool, you can search for organizations that: - Are eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions, or - Have had t
A Gallery of Giving - The faces of those who give and receive...Click thumbnail to view full-size
Step 3: Check Your Charity - ...Make sure your charity is legitimate and will actually accomplish YOUR objectives...
- Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance
The Better Business Bureau provides a wide variety of resources that will help you find charitable organizations, determine their legitimacy, and make sure their objectives and business practices are a good match for yours.
- Charity Navigator
Established in 2001, Charity Navigator uses well-established and consistent methods to rate charities based on a wide variety of criteria. This is an easy site to navigate and it provides both graphic and textual information several hundreds of chari
- Charity Watch
Founded in 1992 as the American Institute of Philanthropy, the Charity Watch site is a little less user friendly than that of Charity Navigator, but it is a great place to expand your charity research. I recommend that those who are really serious ab
GuideStar is a good tertiary source of information about charities. The people at GuideStar "gather and disseminate information about every single IRS-registered nonprofit organization." This is a very nice service and I like it's clean site. However
- Consumer Reports: Make sure your donation counts
Consumer Reports is a trustworthy organization and they've done a great service with this short piece that encourages you to check out charitable organization before you give.
- Federal Trade Commission: Before Giving to a Charity
The FTC performs a valuable service here by describing in detail ways for you to determine if a charity is a scam. There are a lot of hucksters out there, so it pays to be informed. This site will give you the tools to spot even the most well disguis
Video Tips -- Before You Give
Not all charities are really charitable. Check out these excellent videos before you pull out your checkbook or hand over your cash. You'll find more on Charity Navigator's YouTube channel.
You can reduce your tax bite by giving non-cash donations...but be careful to do it the right way.
Sure, you can donate cash! Here are some things to consider.
Charity Navigator's President and CEO, Ken Berger, talks about charity CEO pay. Does it matter?
"Trust is the most precious commodity that a charity has." Ken Berger, President and CEO of Charity Navigator
Exposing Charity Fraud: The people raising money along the Las Vegas strip aren't exactly what you would think. There's more to this story than meets the eye.