The 4-Step Plan For Choosing Charities

Support Starving Children around the World! Support Abused Animals! Support the Environment! Support Your College! Support Victims of Natural Disasters! These days we seem to be bombarded with too many charities asking us to give our money to their causes. So, how do you choose between so many good causes? It can be a tough choice, but hopefully these four questions will help you discern which charities you want to give to.

  • Does the Charity Align with Your Values? Begin by making a list of what causes are important to you. Who do you want to help? What kind of work should the organization do? Do you want to give locally or globally? As you answer these questions you can begin to form a list of charities that you know of that match these values. If you want to find new charities that match your values you can use charitynavigator or justgive to search different charities.
  • How Much Does the Charity Spend Its Money? When you are considering a charity it is important to look at how much of a charity’s money is put towards the charity’s cause. A good way to do this is to look at administrative and fundraising costs vs. program costs. A good charity’s combined administrative and fundraising costs should make up 25% or less of their budget. Most charities will have this information easily accessible on their website. You should also verify this information by searching for the charity on a charity evaluator site, such as charity navigator. A charity evaluator will offer comprehensive information about the charity, including its finances, as well as offer the charity a rating.
  • Is the Charity Certified? It is important to check if your organization is legitimate, if it is registered as a charity by the IRS and if your donation is tax deductible. While most charity evaluators will have this information, it is important to check with the IRS directly. This process will help you to weed out dubious organizations and ensure that you are giving to the right charity.
  • Does the Charity Offer Other Ways to Get Involved Besides Giving Money? Volunteering is a great way to get to know a charity. You can see more clearly the ways that the charity lives out its mission as well as how it spends its money. If you want to give to a charity that you are not very familiar with this is a great way to solidify your decision to give.

 After you finish this process, you should feel confident about giving to the charity of your choice. For more information on choosing charities check out this msnbc article or this charity choices article.


Join the conversation: What charities do you support that reflect these criteria? Why did you choose to give to these charities?



Creative Ways To Give Back

When you are on a budget, you might feel constrained in your capacity to give back to your community. Here are some creative ways that you can give back, even if you are on a tight budget:

  • Tangible Charitable Gifts: Give a gift to someone in need in the name of a friend or relative. Many websites, including: ELCA Good gifts, Oxfam America and World Vision offer a variety of gifts under $25. You could give 2 soccer balls, art and music instruction or feed 10 people in soup kitchen for under $25 dollars.
  • Click Giving: There are a variety of sites that give food to the hungry just by clicking a button or completing a question. donates 10 grains of rice for every answer that you get right. gives 1.1 cups of food to the hungry just by clicking the button on their homepage. If you clicked the button once a day for a year you would help donate 401.5 cups of food!
  • Give Some of Your Stuff Away: Purge your closets and give away some of your gently used clothes, cellphones, computers or empty printer cartridges.
  • Social Media Awareness: Believe it or not, one of the biggest ways that you can help non-profit charities is through social media! Join Causes on Facebook, write a blog post about your favorite charity, follow your favorite charity on social network sites, use social media to start or sign a petition, or change your profile picture to show your support.
  • Recycle: This may seem simple, but it makes a big difference. Be conscious about recycling paper, cans, plastic and glass, and encourage your friends to do the same.
  • Throw a Giving Party: Grab some friends and go to Feed my Starving Children on a Saturday afternoon. Throw a party and ask each person to bring a can or $5 donation. Collect used books from your friends, host a book sale and give the proceeds to charity.
  • Form a Giving Circle: Do you wish that you could give a bigger donation to a specific cause? Buddy up with a few friends and give small donations together.
  • Give Your Spare Change: We have probably all heard the advice of keeping a coin jar, but did you know that you can give your “spare change” from of your credit card electronically? allows you to give spare change by rounding up each credit card transaction. On average people give about $15 month to charity through this program.

Join the Conversation: What are some creative ways that you give back?