Philanthropy on a Budget
For some people, it’s either not easy or not feasible to give to charity because of budget concerns. In unprecedented times such as these, it’s especially difficult to find the extra funds to help those in need—but charitable giving doesn’t necessarily boil down to monetary donations and nothing more. It’s possible to help others through other means, so much so that you could create a plan to give in this way year-round instead of once or twice a year.
If money is tight, you can give your time instead. If both are tight, there are ways to get creative so you can still help out how you can. Here are a few ways to do that.
Look into the organization you want to donate to.
If you have the means to make a monetary donation, make sure the organization you want to donate to is actually making a difference. There are several charity analysis organizations out on the internet—CharityNavigator.org, CharityWatch.org, and Guidestar.org, just to name a few—that keep track of the effectiveness of the organizations and how they deliver (or don’t deliver, in some cases) to their intended target audiences.
The Better Business Bureau runs Give.org, which keeps track of complaints and offers reports on accredited charities. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Charity Scams website can tell you which organizations have a history of illegal fundraising as well as give tips on how to evaluate charities and non-profits year-round. You can also do a Google search of the charity’s name with words like “news,” “complaints,” and “arrest” to see if any local news stations have reported on unsavory dealings to do with the organization you want to give to.
Research what organizations need.
When both time and money aren’t readily available for you to give, it can seem like there’s nothing else for you to do. This isn’t necessarily true—charities and non-profit organizations often have lists of physical items that they either need or will accept donations of, such as clothes, food, and toys. It’s very important to check with the charity you want to donate to either online or over the phone before donating any physical items because if they receive something they won’t accept, it’ll only waste the staff and volunteer’s time to handle the items.
Check to see if your employer will match your donation.
No matter how modest your cash donation is, checking to see if your employer has a matching gift program can make your donation go even farther. You can check to see if they do this by contacting your human resources department or benefits manager. Several major international non-profits and local charities have online databases of these programs, so before making donations check these databases to see if you can take advantage of this program.
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