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Donating to Charity - it is not all about the Money
In light of the earthquakes in Haiti, millions of people are reaching for their wallets to provide all the help they can. While I think this is wonderful, donating to charities does not have to be about the money. In fact, I rarely just give money to charities to do with what they please (although I did donate to the Haiti relief effort). I guess you could say I am leery of how much of that money will go to overhead for the charity (and yes, I know some has to). There are just so many other ways to give.
For us personally, we prefer to give to local organizations in a more personal way than just giving money. Having kids probably has something to do with that as they don't quite grasp it as well when I write a check, as they do when I give a bag of groceries. They need that tangible evidence and frankly, I know that when I donate a can of peas, the family that gets those peas is not going to get 80% of the can - they will get the entire can.
We prefer to donate items to charities or people in need. We donate underwear and socks through our church, we donate mittens and hats through the schools and it seems there is always a food drive going on somewhere. When I am shopping I deliberately seek out items that can be donated locally to people that need them. In essence I spend money getting items people will use, rather than giving the money directly to the charity.
Another huge and very impacting way to help charities is to donate your time. This is also easier to do for local charities than in other countries. If you are involved in a church, I am sure they have plenty of missions projects available for you to help with. We volunteer our time within our church as well as within the community. My kids seeing me volunteer my time or working right alongside me is much more impacting than if I were to write a check. If you don't have the money to donate I bet you could most likely find some time to give.
When it comes to huge disasters like the earthquakes in Haiti, there really isn't much the average person can do from their home. Very few people can physically get to far away countries to help. In this instance money is typically the best way to give. Please pick and choose carefully the organizations you donate to though. Also consider donating money to an organization that specifically helps with a certain aspect of the disaster. For instance the organization we donated to will go in after all the rescue and recovery operations are finished and help the people of Haiti rebuild their lives.
Donating to charities is a wonderful thing to do and I highly recommend it. But giving money is not always the best choice for a person or a situation. Consider carefully how best you can help people in need - and then do it!