As we are coming to the end of the year, a lot of charities have really put on the push to get your donation dollars. Additionally, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, which also brings out the call for donations and purchases.
I think donating to charity is an important part of your budget. (Of course, if you simply can’t spare the money, your time is equally valuable and helpful at many great organizations.) That said, make sure you do your research before giving up your hard earned money. There are a lot of great charities out there, but there are also a lot of not-so-great charities.
One of my favorite resources is Charity Navigator. They evaluate charities using two broad categories – Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency. Using these, they can give you a good idea of how well a charity will use your money. After all, when we donate, we want our money going to the cause, not to simply line an executive’s pockets. They use a four star rating system, so it’s pretty easy to compare charities and choose one that will best utilize your funds.
Since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, let’s look at some Breast Cancer related charities. The big one that everyone knows is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Now, don’t get me wrong. This charity did a lot to get the word out about breast cancer. But at this point, Charity Navigator is only rating them two stars. Why? Their financials. They spend a lot of money on administration and fundraising. On the other hand, one of my favorite Breast Cancer charities is the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has a four star rating. But there are other Breast Cancer charities with an equally good rating.
It’s all about doing your research. And one thing I love about Charity Navigator is that they stay on top of the current issues. Right now, their main page has a link to charities that are working with Syrian refugees. I don’t know that I would know where to begin to donate to that cause. Same thing with the South Carolina flooding. I know about the Red Cross, but I would have had no idea what the best rated local food bank was.
If you’re just looking to make an end of the year donation, you can even search by category and pick a cause near and dear to your heart. Animals, kids, military, it’s all there.
Of course, I think you should also check out your local community. See what your local food bank is doing and what they might need. Many local charities do Adopt a Family programs for Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s an easy and fun way to give back. And the tax break is a little bonus for you.
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.