Updated January 1, 2013

Charitable Giving: Give Back in the Season of Giving

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With nearly 1.6 million non-profit organizations, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, Americans have difficult decisions to make when they’re feeling charitable this holiday season.

Thankfully, there are some tips you can follow to help you choose an organization when you’re moved to give. We’ve also included some tactics you can use to make sure your money spreads as far as possible.

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Infographics: Charity 2011
Infographics: Charity 2011 © CreditDonkey

"Here at CreditDonkey.com, we think it's important for individuals to help others in need," said Charles Tran, founder of CreditDonkey.com. "But we understand that many people have difficulties when it comes to choosing charities to support. And, with many people still recovering from the recession, we wanted to offer tips to help them make their funds stretch as far as possible so they can make the greatest impact."

Even with the economic uncertainty, Americans gave $290.89 billion in 2010, according to research statistics from the Giving USA Foundation, an increase of $3.8% from 2009.

Research from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University indicates 73% of donations being made by individuals in 2010, an increase of 1.1%.

18% of donors said that the single most important reason for giving to charity is helping people meet basic needs and 17% were motivated to make "the world a better place", according to a survey funded by CCS, a national fundraising consulting firm.

Choosing the “right” organization to support

Many people fret over finding the right charity to support. The good news is that, for the most part, when it comes to charitable giving, there really isn’t a “right” or “wrong” decision. However, there are some steps you can take to help narrow your choices and ensure that you are supporting a well-managed organization.

Follow your passion: When deciding which organization to support, one good way to narrow down your choices is to select organizations that match your interests and passions. For example, if you’ve always had a heart for animals, consider supporting an animal rescue organization. Or, if you’ve always been passionate about children and have had an interest in a certain region of the world, you can find an organization that helps children in those countries.

Do your research: Once you’ve determined what causes you would like to support, you can locate organizations that meet those needs by researching online. A simple internet search is likely to bring back organizations. You can also utilize charity search websites like Charity.com and CharityNavigator.org, which make it easier to compare charities.

Make sure it’s well managed: Once you’ve narrowed in on a handful of organizations you would like to support, it’s important that you take a couple of extra steps to ensure your money will be utilized how you have envisioned. Charity Navigator rates charities based on how they utilize funds and grow their programs and also includes other pertinent information that will help you determine if it’s a well run organization. You can also contact the organization directly to ask for the last several annual reports and ask specific questions you have regarding the charity.

Make your support go further

Choosing an organization or two is just half of the charitable giving puzzle, the other half is determining how to support those organizations to make sure they are benefiting from your giving. Here are some steps you can take to increase the impact of your giving:

Utilize your credit cards: Choose a credit card for your wallet that has a built-in charitable giving program. There are many in existence nowadays that will make a donation based upon a small percentage of each of your purchases. There are also rewards or cash back credit cards that have charitable giving options as part of their rewards programs. If the organization you’d like to support is not one of the choices provided through cash back credit cards, you can cash out your points and donate the money directly to the nonprofit.

Look toward gift cards: Another option you can take is to donate unused gift cards that you have received as presents. These cards can either be used to purchase supplies or can be used by the nonprofit as part of a fundraiser. You can also give the gift of giving to your friends and family this year by purchasing gift cards that allow the recipient to choose which charity receives the donation.

Donate your time: If you would like to support an organization but don’t have room in your budget, you can also give back by donating your time. If it is a local organization, you could volunteer on a weekly or monthly basis. If the organization is based out of a different region, you could go on a “volunteer vacation” where you utilize your vacation time at work to travel to the organization and donate your time for a week.

Donate some goods: Many organizations also accept donations in the form of supplies. You can contact the organization to ask if there are items they currently need. If you have specific items that you would like to donate, the best bet is to contact the organization before sending the items their way. The is especially true if they are valuable items, as the nonprofit may benefit more from the cash collected from the sale of the item.

How are you planning to give back this holiday season?

(Research by Kelly; Graphic Design by Tina; Additional Writing by Meghan)

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Comments about Charitable Giving: Give Back in the Season of Giving

  • Rachael Slorach from New South Wales
    on December 22, 2011 9:29 PM said:

    Hi Kelly,

    This is a really comprehensive article on giving to charity, well done. I hope it inspires many to take this option this Christmas, I know I did for many of our gift recipients!

    I agree that a great way to start the search for your favourite charities is to look at your personal interests.

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