This year has brought me many blessings. I, like many of you, plan on making a few charitable donations this holiday season in order to give back. (well, as much as a broke college student can afford to anyway) I am sure you are already being bombarded by people ringing bells in front of stores, door to door solicitors, phone calls and retail workers at your favorite stores persuading you to donate a dollar to a charity their store is partnered with.
The "Giving Season," a well-known term in the philanthropic community refers to the time between Thanksgiving and New Years, where it is estimated over 40 percent of charitable donations are made each year. Last year alone, Americans donated over $373 billion to charities. This amount is clearly enough to make a difference, however many "nonprofit" organizations take advantage of this giving spirit.
In 2014, The Tampa Bay Times compiled a list of "America's Worst Charities" based on the last 10 years of available federal tax filings. These popular charities spent the majority of the money raised by solicitors toward paying them and in almost every case, less that 10% went to the "charity." This is not a rare phenomenon.
This doesn't mean you should avoid charity altogether this holiday season. If you want to give back and make your donation count just follow these easy steps:
Do Your Homework:
Before you make any donations this holiday season, familiarize yourself with popular charities that will make your donation count. (in terms of the majority of your dollar going directly to the cause you wish to support) Some of my personal favorites include The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and Prevent Child Abuse America (National Office). Also, know which popular charities are less highly ranked.
Know The Signs of a Charity Scam:
There are several red flags that indicate you should not donate to a particular charity. Some of these include: little details being provided about the charity, the name mimics a well-known and already established charity, they cannot provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible, they pressure you to donate quickly or enter you in a sweepstakes if you donate. (which is illegal)
Utilize Available Resources:
With access to so many resources, it is easy to ensure your donation is going to a legitimate charity and will count. If you are unsure about making a donation, do a little additional research. Web sites such as Charity Navigator, Give.org by the Better Business Bureau and Charity Watch are all great resources that will help you make sure your donation will count.
Get Hands On:
Finally, getting hands on is one of the most effective ways to give back. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen, help a local family in need or foster a child if you have the means. Getting directly involved is the best way to contribute this giving season as you can make a difference and be sure your efforts are going to the right place.