How To Be A More Effective Charitable Donor

I am not endorsing one charity over another (unless they are on this list, or this list don’t give to those guys) But rather a philosophy of how to give.

  1. Pick a cause and stick to it. Pick something you are passionate about. Pick a cause that you will be involved in, not just with money but with time. Volunteering is just as important as money. Bill and Melinda Gates have almost unlimited funds but they still manage to have focus and a vision. You don’t have to have the world vision that they have, just pick one little thing that you care about.
  2. Have a charity budget. Your tax prep person can help you determine what that dollar amount should be. After you have given out your charity budget for the year tell everyone else NO! And stick to it.
  3. Only give to a few charities. Yes they all need money, yes they are all good causes. But you are only one person, and you can only do so much. Limit yourself to 5 charities (I think that is to many BTW) Your money and time will have more impact, if you give a lot of money to a few charities. Rather than a little money a lot of charities. Freakonomics talking about how less is more.
  4. Do not be swayed by the sob stories in the letters they send to you. Try to look past the big eyed crippled children, holding animals that are going to be put down if you don’t GIVE MONEY RIGHT NOW!!1!! Target Marking on how to make an emotional direct mail appeal. I have seen most of the examples over the past year.
  5. Don’t give over the phone. The telemarketer that was hired to call you, will get a percentage of your donation. You can give over the phone, but bump up your donation 10% to 50%, so that the amount you want the charity to receive, actually gets to them.
  6. Give local. This project has soured me on the large national charities. Give to a local cause close to your hart. Instead of giving to the National ASPCA give to your local shelter. The dollars will go farther if they don’t go through the bureaucracy of the national charity.
  7. Do your homework. Sign up for Charity Navigator and look at the IRS 990’s of the charity you give to. Go to the meetings, talk to the president of the organization. Are they well organized? Are they accomplishing the goals they set for themselves? Do they have a long term plan? People can have a great cause, and passion, but be terrible at executing the goals they are so passionate about.

 University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy They are academics and talk a lot. I wish they had an info graphic or some other easy to share page that distills down their philosophy.

Thanks Guidestar! That is exactly what I needed.

Charity Navigator’s  Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors

delawareonline.com Make more than a gift, make an impact

NorthWestern Mutual on giving more effectively

Mashable’s charity donation tips

The Wall Street Journal on How to Vet a Charity

Philamplify only rates big endowments or foundations. I hope they expand their offerings soon.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) They help charities be more effective.

Caroline Fiennes wants your donation to have the most impact, and for charities to do the most with your money.

Time for a TED Talk!

I do not agree with anything Dan Pallotta talks about. The more administrative costs go up, it is no longer a charity doing good works. It is now a business that raises money. Which is what Mr. Pallotta runs.

Now to bring it all back to junk mail:
Who ever you choose to give to, tell them not to sell or share your information and to limit the amount of mailpieces and emails they send you a year. For many charities a major source of income is selling their mailing list. If you catch them doing it, that is a deal breaker. You and your money will go elsewhere. Good charities will listen to you. It costs them more to find a new donor, than to keep one.

This post was inspired by a comment from dbaplanb and her mother’s giant boxes of charity junk mail.

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