I was somewhat hesitant to write this blog. The last thing I’m trying to do here is preach, or to lecture on why we should give. That said, as a small government, low tax, freedom loving kind of guy, I think giving is imperative to walking the talk. And ‘giving’ doesn’t only mean writing a cheque to a worthy cause. The most valuable thing one can give is their time – something I have failed to do enough of this year…
The first time I donated a relatively substantial amount to charity I felt pretty darn good. I donated to one of the more prominent charities, initially thinking it would be a great thing to support. But as I started reading more about the background of the charity and foundation industry as a whole, I began to question. I started to look at charity overhead such as management salaries for many of the bigger ones, and the causes they backed less publicly. Some charities, believe it or not, are quite politically partisan – the one I initially gave to certainly was (not in line with my views).
To be honest, I felt duped. But it was my fault… I didn’t do enough research before donating. If I had done my due diligence I’m positive that I could have found a much more efficient charity to give my money to. Had I treated my donation more like an investment (which it is… an investment in your fellow man), I would have found a better cause.
So make sure to research before giving. Send your hard earned money to a charity that you strongly believe in and that you know will use the cash efficiently. My general guideline for an acceptable amount of overhead for a charity is in and around 15%. That means for every dollar donated, the charity uses 15 cents to keep the lights on, pay staff etc. Much more than that and I’d begin to question whether the nonprofit is in it for profit…
One thing I initially did when giving to charity was to look for ones that tried to eradicate the third world atrocities (starvation, child slavery to name a few). While a noble cause indeed, we shouldn’t overlook our own backyard. There are many people in need at your local schools, churches, community centers and potentially even on your own street. A high ROI charitable activity is simply purchasing food and clothing and heading to the downtown core of your city to find homeless people to help. There’s no overhead expenditures needed. Your charitable givings go straight to the source and cut out the middleman.
Just my 2 cents on charitable giving.