We have seen these faces- beautiful children without food- hungry. Starving for knowledge and education, health care and shelter. Whether the need is around the world or right here at home there are many legitimate causes that are worthy of your consideration and if possible, your charity. The problem is which ones are legit and which are not. How do you know that your money is going to the people or cause that you have intended for your hard earned cash.

Not So FastFirst, DO NOT assume that since the cause is linked to your church, a friend, a celebrity, a relative, a “sister” program in your neighborhood, etc. that it is actually reaching the people or communities that it was intended for!  I have worked and lived for a long time internationally in other countries and in the ravaged parts of America (I worked and was raised in the South Bronx.) There are whole industries preying upon the generosity of Americans and those who really need our charity. First, you may have NO idea of how money is being diverted to foreign banks accounts and not converted to food, education, shelter and health care of those who need it most. But, by far the way that most soaks up money BEFORE helping the target group is “overhead”! This is the cost of doing business as a charitable organization. Not So FastI remember one very popular and powerful charity (name is withheld to protect my butt) whose overhead in the name of God was 75%!!!! That means for every dollar that was donated, 75 cents went to the “cost” of operations. So, my first point is be skeptical. However, I am not suggesting that you should not give to charities if you can. Trust me, it is a really good feeling to know that your contribution will feed some hungry child or family, maybe help them sleep on a mattress with a roof over their heads rather than in the street, etc. Even if what you do helps just one soul, it counts!!!!!!!!!! If there is a heaven, then your act echoes through its fields- an act of love. For the giver, it is a good feeling- a feeling of being complete. It is important lesson for your children (i.e. the act of caring for others- not just for yourself).

So what to do when considering where to place your charitable donation:

From e-How Money:

Ask for literature. It doesn’t matter if you’ve gotten a phone call from a charity or you’re researching a charity on the Internet — always ask the organization to send you literature in the mail. This gives you the opportunity to investigate the charity before you make a donation.

Review the charity’s financial reports. Every legitimate charity should make its financial reports available to potential donors. This report may be available upon request, or it may be posted on the organization’s website. The report should tell you how much of the charity’s money is actually being donated to the cause and how much goes toward operating expenses such as administrative salaries. The best charities tend to give a large percentage of their funds to the actual cause and use a smaller percentage for administrative costs.

Ensure that the charity is non-profit. An organization must submit Form 990 to the IRS to be considered a non-profit. Ask the charity for a copy of this form. Choosing a non-profit organization helps ensure that your donation is tax deductible.

Check with your local Better Business Bureau. The national Better Business Bureau rates some of the larger charities, but if the charity you’re considering is local, find the local Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your Yellow Pages. The BBB will tell you if the organization has any negative reports.

Tips & Warnings

  • The best charities tend to give a large percentage of their funds to the actual cause and use a smaller percentage for administrative costs.I would look for an overhead in the 10-20% range.
  • Choosing non-profit organization helps ensure that your donations are tax deductible.
  • The national Better Business Bureau rates some of the larger, national charities.
  • In many cases, choosing a local charity will allow you a chance to learn more about the organization. You’ll be able to ask friends and neighbors about their experiences with the charity.
  • Never give out your credit card or bank information to a charity solicitor who calls you on the phone. This is a common scam tactic.

One Other Thing

Not So FastWhether it is the South Bronx (where I grew up), Guadalupe here in Phoenix Metro, Watts in Los Angeles, etc. there are plenty of really good folks who could use some help. We have lots of kids who are starving and without clothes right here in the U.S. There are moms who have been beaten; dads who can’t get jobs and could use retraining. Churches in the trenches are working overtime with limited resources in terrible places right here in America where the poverty and the horror matches anything we have seen in other parts of the world. I have worked all over the world and there is so much to do- agreed, but what about right in your backyard? Wherever and whenever there is a soul in pain, it hurts us all, but do not forget our fellow Americans. I lived in the South Bronx and I can tell you first hand charity can help restore health and dignity. I want the same for everyone. It would just be terrible if we forgot about our own!!!