With a world in crisis – from drought, to poverty, to trafficking – there are so many excellent causes to give to and volunteer for. But it can also be overwhelming and easy to over-commit. How does one go about choosing which charity to invest in?
Here are four ways to find the charity that fits your life, your beliefs and your wallet.
Perhaps the most common way to choose a charity is to align oneself with an organization that holds a similar belief system. “I choose things that I’m passionate about such as poverty, hunger, justice,” said Chicago resident and stay-at-home mom Nicole Richards. “Since I’m a Christian, I choose charities that help people (in those areas) in Jesus’ name.”
Erin Martinez, a photo stylist from Kansas City, Mo., got involved with Stop Child Trafficking Now (“SCTNow”) because of its unique efforts to stop the demand of domestic trafficking, her heart as a mom and her faith. “If my heart is breaking, how much more is Christ’s heart breaking when he sees this happening? I want to be his hands and feet.”
Since becoming involved with SCTNow, Martinez has seen her family, friends and church come together to fight this issue. Giving to a cause close to your heart and your faith can connect you with like-minded folks, opening new doors for relationships and community.
The Family That Serves Together…
Finding a cause that’s important to you and your family is a key factor in choosing a charity. No matter your marital or parental status, there is strength in numbers. Choose a cause where you can work alongside those close to you.
Whether it’s serving in a homeless shelter with your best friend or helping your child plan a toy drive, your heart for the issue and your love for each other will grow exponentially.
It can be hard to visualize and invest in a cause that is happening a world away. Instead, consider investigating an issue that hits close to home.
Katy Raymond, a writer from Raymore, Mo., said, “You know how they say we should all be eating as locally as possible? I kind of feel that way about charities, in general. I like to keep it close to home, for the most part, which is why we’ve enjoyed helping Mercy & Truth Medical Missions [an organization based in Kansas City, Mo., which serves the uninsured both locally and internationally].”
No doubt about it, there is someone in your community who needs help, and there may already be an established organization where you can invest your time and resources. Though it may seem that a crisis across the globe is more dire, as you see a need and solution up close and personal, investing in a local charity may end up impacting your heart more than your wallet.
Seek Financial Accountability
Fraud is widespread, even within the charitable community. According to the Federal Trade Commission, officials brought 76 actions against purported charities in 2009 alone. Beware of organizations that can’t show where and how financial contributions are distributed. An organization with membership to a financial accountability oversight group protects your wallet, as well as the cause it’s seeking to impact.
Federal agencies like The Better Business Bureau, or accountability groups like the ECFA, can verify the legitimacy of an organization and provide a financial history. Kiva, a popular microfinancing charity, not only has financial accountability, but it also offers a return on your investment!
Use our “Make a Difference Day” widget to find local volunteer opportunities. Then check out the 7 Do’s and Don’ts of giving to nonprofits.