If you have extra resources to spare for those in need, giving to a charity may be on your radar. Choosing which organization to contribute to — whether it be your time, skills, or money — can be a challenge, though. Maybe you know exactly what you’re passionate about, or maybe you’re still figuring it out.
Regardless of where you stand, there are ways to identify the most fitting recipients of your charitable contributions. Below are five things to consider when choosing which charities to support.
1. Consider the Causes That Resonate With You
You may already know you want to donate to breast cancer or volunteer at a homeless shelter. On the other hand, you may have an itch to help those in need but not know where to start. To help determine which causes you might like to support, start by considering what you are already passionate about. Are there hobbies you spend your spare time partaking in? Is there a specific topic you find yourself frequently reading about or researching?
Identifying what you are already invested in can help you decide where to contribute your resources. If you’re still unsure, consider volunteering at different organizations in your local area. Over time, you’ll be able to tell whether it’s a pet shelter, after-school tutoring program, or soup kitchen that most speaks to you. Once you are able to nail down a cause, finding a specific charity will be much easier.
2. Figure Out How You Want to Give Back
When people consider donating to charities, they often think of it as giving money to an organization. However, supporting a cause can go beyond the bank — it might involve giving them your time, energy, or skills instead. It’s important to consider what ways you can best contribute to an organization based on your current resources and lifestyle. For example, if you don’t have much extra cash, volunteering at a homeless shelter might be a better fit.
Many charitable organizations rely on volunteers to stay afloat. Donating your time is just as valuable to them as donating your money. And if you have a specific skill set, you can turn this into a charitable service as well. Whether it’s cooking, accounting, or graphic design, you can help the organization in areas where they cannot afford paid employees.
3. Decide Whether to Give Locally or Globally
If you’ve asked yourself whether it’s better to give locally or globally, you’re not alone. The concept of “effective altruism” — deciding how to best use resources to help others — has become increasingly popular. Some believe charitable dollars can go further in underdeveloped countries. Others think the key to a better world starts with fixing current problems in your own community. The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer.
At the end of the day, no matter wherever you contribute your resources, you are helping others. All good causes deserve to be supported, whether they’re nearby or far afield. However, narrowing your choices down to one approach or the other can help you make a decision on a charity. If you feel torn between giving locally or globally, consider volunteering at one and donating money to another. A local Boys and Girls Club will appreciate your presence as much as a refugee resettlement charity will appreciate your dollars.
4. Do Your Research
Doing thorough research when deciding which organization to support is crucial — particularly when it comes to donating your money. You’ll want to make sure you know exactly what your money will be used for. One of the best ways to learn more about an organization is by looking them up on charity watchdog sites. These sites expose nonprofit abuse and ascertain whether a charitable foundation is credible.
When doing your research, it’s also important to make sure you find an organization that aligns with your values. While you might appreciate their work on erasing medical debt, for example, you may be less comfortable with their positions on reproductive freedom. You can start your investigation by looking up their mission statement and stated end goals. It can also be helpful to read up on the impact they’ve already made to fully understand their contribution. Keep in mind, the more transparent they are, the more likely they are to be a legitimate, reliable charity.
5. Use Charity Recommenders
If you still need help discovering different charities to donate to, work smarter not harder. While looking for charities on your own is beneficial, there are sites that can assist you. For example, sites like Charity Navigator can help you find organizations that have high impact and are cost-effective. You can discover a wide variety of highly credible charities to consider based on your interests and passions.
Charity recommendation sites typically use data analysis, budget reviews, and interviews to help you better understand an organization. Their goal is essentially to help you get the most bang for your charitable buck. If you want to support a charity that makes a real impact, this approach can put you on the right track.
The Bottom Line
Supporting charities — whether across the world or right next door — helps those who are receiving and you who are giving. The best part is, no matter what resources you currently have, you can find a way to donate to a cause. It could entail volunteering at a local animal shelter or making a monthly payment to a global organization. No matter how big or small your contribution, you will be making the world a little better than you found it.