5 Steps For Choosing Where To Spend Your Donation Dollars

It’s that time of year. Our mailboxes are filled with envelopes, notepads, and address labels – all “gifts” from various non-profits asking us to donate this holiday season. Obviously we won’t give to every organization offering a free sticker, but most of us want to wisely spread monetary love to the charities who work tirelessly helping those in need. 
How will we choose?
The following 5 steps can help you decide which tax-deductible donations to support:
1. Where is your passion?
My whole life has been dedicated to the well-being of youth. As a teacher, then youth minister, then teacher again, my prayer is for every young person to live in stability. I hope I see this come to fruition in my lifetime. In the meantime, I’ll support organizations which make helping youth a priority.
My husband has a strong pull for our environment. In his last semester of college he took a wildlife conservation course. He then realized a career in Information Technology may not be quite as fulfilling as being a Forest Ranger. Edd still graduated with a Computer Science degree, but we’ve vacationed in many National Parks and support non-profits aiming to make our earth a better place.
2. Whom do you know and respect?
Do you have friends who work for a non-profit company? You may even work for one yourself. Talk to employees who know the ins and outs of daily business and educate yourself on how your donation may help.
3. Where do you volunteer?
I’ve served in a lot of different charities over the past two years and would never claim one is more worthy of fundraising efforts than another. I found myself returning to volunteer with a couple groups, either because I believed in their mission or loved working with the folks there. Of course these places value your time, but I know they can use monetary help to keep the necessary operations going.
4. Which do all household givers support?
If you are single or are giving money from your own bank account, have at it. This tip doesn’t apply to you. For everyone else: make sure the charity you fund is agreed on by all who share the purse strings. 
One day while driving about town, my heart swelled with compassion while listening to a plea for donations on a radio show. I went home and immediately logged onto the charity’s website and entered my credit card number. When Edd found out about my good deed, he shared valid concerns he had about the organization. This was a good reminder for both of us to check in with each other before any large donations are made. 
(Small amounts = ok. I have no problem giving $25 to the school jog-a-thon without spousal consulting.)
5. Whom do you trust?
With so many non-profit conglomerates, how do you know which are managing funds well? Websites like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch can give you the lowdown on background checks. Most cities host “Hands On _______ or “Volunteer Match” websites where serving opportunities are listed. Donating to local charities help give your own community a boost.
Here in Portland, our local publication Willamette Week offers a “Give! Guide” every year. In order to encourage giving, WW offers prizes and incentives for donors. Rewards aren’t the reason I give, but it is pretty cool for them to encourage those who are hesitant to donate otherwise.
Both of the non-profits close to my heart are in this year’s Give! Guide edition. If you absolutely, positively have nowhere else you feel a passion to give but want to make a monetary difference, consider The Children’s Book Bank and HomePlate Youth Services. I can promise your dollars will make a difference there.
Giving thanks to all of you for your generous hearts!
**Check out my post Spending Less, Give More for more charities to support.

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