Which Charity to Give to?

In yesterday’s post, I encouraged you to give away some of your time or money to the cause of your choice.  But before you jump to start giving to any charity, do a credibility check.  Some charities sound just Great!- but it’s hard to tell where your money is actually going.  Thankfully there are organizations that research nonprofits and let you know exactly where every penny is going.   
  • Better Business Bureau’s (BBB)
  • Wise Giving Alliance
  • Charity Navigator
  • Charity Watch
  •  GuideStar
All these are recommended by the Federal Trade Commission.  Beware that some require a membership fee, though.  
If a charity is not doing what it presents itself to be doing, then I much prefer to give to local churches or causes, where you can actually get a sense of where the money is going, compared to the huge, yet faceless “charities.”  Some have so much overhead that I could never approve of a cent of my family’s hard earned money going to them.  It also seems like some are just special interest groups.  If you’re interested, read about special interest groups here and decide for yourself if that’s something you want your money to go toward.   
These type of charities insist they are for the public interest rather than special interest, because per the IRS code, a charity “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.”  But some do anyway, so I vote a big “No thanks!” with my lack of donor dollars.  For example, I’d much rather give to my local humane society, whom I know is saving animals’ lives, than the Humane Society of the US or PETA, which are also ambitious about radically changing/eradicating farming practices.  If that’s your goal as well, give to HSUS or PETA, but if you’d rather find shelter animals homes, be sure to research the big “animal rights charities” before giving to them, or just give supplies, money, or volunteer time to your local shelter.     
Another safe way to go: give to charities that you have been involved in and know firsthand are making positive changes in the world.  Some of my favorites are Midwest Poultry Consortium (Allow me to explain: I’m a grad, and I love chickens!) and a couple local churches, but I am always searching for great causes.  Also, give away your time if your money situation is not in the right shape to start being financially generous.  Local causes would love to have your help!
What charities do you guys like?    
Fyi, Pencils of Promise, the charity I blogged about yesterday, has a great rating on GuideStar.   

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