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In this day and age of multi-media branding specialists doing your homework on how you’re going to give your money away is more important than ever.

In this day and age of slick marketing campaigns and multi-media branding specialists doing your homework on how you’re going to give your money away is more important than ever.  It used to be fairly straightforward – you give your cheque to a local church or community group and they would allocate the funds accordingly (and you could be fairly sure the work was done by volunteers).  I assume that hucksters always existed and took advantage of people’s goodwill, but these days they are better organized and more rampant than ever.

Do Your Homework

I’m not sure what moral plane a person would have to exist on in order to consciously create an organization to enrich themselves while promoting scenes of intense poverty and/or sickness.  Maybe it starts off as a reasonable pursuit, and incrementally grows until a charitable organization is simply a giant bureaucratic beast that needs to be fed.  Whether or not charities become money pits through evil intentions, or a simple lack of oversight, the sad truth is that many organizations that have the titles “not-for-profit” or “charity” attached to them are spending a huge amount of your money on themselves.  Many of these are not small-time affairs either, but rather prominent names within the field of charity.

Before you giveaway your hard-earned bucks, take a few minutes to look into the company’s website and financial statements.  The key figure you want to look for is what percentage of money makes it through the bureaucratic pipeline to the people that are being featured on the front of a brochure.  The best charities are able to keep their operation efficient and keep costs low by making use of modern technology and old-fashioned volunteer spirit.  Some charities manage to pass along 70-80 cents of every dollar you give, while others are able to get a mere 30 cents or so from your wallet to the end of the food chain.  That makes a huge difference in someone’s life.  If you feel good about giving the money in the first place, think about how much better you could feel if you were sure that you were making an even bigger difference because you did a little bit of homework.

Ads and Big Shots

So if your money isn’t going to help the cancer payments or starving children, where is it going you might reasonably ask?  Well it turns out that “not-for-profit” doesn’t actually mean that no one makes money, it only means that there is no owner that takes profit out of the company.  This means that a charity is free to appoint a CEO and several other people with important-sounds titles that can be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.  The companies will even rationalize it saying that they must compete for the top talent in the field.  One would think that that the top talent in the field of charity would be motivated by something other than a large paycheck, but I digress.  One other key aspect of a company’s budget to check out is how much they spend on advertising.  Some companies get so big, that the only way to maintain that size is to try to keep growing, and to make sure the money keeps coming in.

Safe Choices

If you’re looking for a relatively safe option for your charity dollars I suggest looking at one of your local religious-based groups or UNICEF.  The latter being one of the oldest and most trusted charities in the world.  One fundraiser they do that I thought was kind of unique and worth highlighting is their Unicef Mothers Day Gifts campaign with all proceeds going to extremely worth causes.  They do everything from help promote gender equity around the planet, to disseminating educational information on Aids/HIV, to helping poverty-stricken children from around the world.

Article comments

1 comment
Courtney says:

I try to look at a non-profit’s record and their impact. Sometimes I choose smaller organizations; sometimes I donate to larger ones but I think the impact is important.
Do I want to donate to an organization where 80% of their goal is reached or one where 50% is reached?
I try to look at their annual report,if such a document is available online.