Holiday Gifts: Help Others

Today's gift suggestion is one that will benefit the recipient as well as you, the giver. Give to help those in dire need.

I urge you to do something unusual this Christmas: adopt a group that you will support until next Christmas. I did that this year and adopted Heifer International, an organization that has helped feed millions. They've done this with a program designed to foster self-reliance in people who struggle to subsist.

Last Christmas, I decided that most of the people in our family have more than enough toys, knickknacks, dining out cards, gadgets, and the like. We're all lucky because we, and our extended family, can purchase virtually anything we want.

I've visited several countries in southeast Asia and in neighboring Mexico so I know how so many on this planet struggle for clean water, food, and a roof over their heads.

After research, I decided that I would donate to Heifer International in the name of the family member who had a birthday or anniversary. With the kids, we'd send a small present also but donate the bulk of the money we would have spent in order to help someone who really needs a helping hand. To date, we've bought flocks of chicks in the kids' names and donated to help a family buy a milk cow.

Heifer International

This group takes your donation and helps families "who for generations knew only poverty" to build new homes and start businesses. Kids who never went to school because they had to work in the fields, now learn to read. This is all possible because of their 65 years of experience in the area of helping people create a sustainable source of food and income.

Whatever you've got to give, you can direct those funds to a specific area like a flock of chicks for $20.00 or a goat for $120.00. If you can't give $120.00, then you can donate a "share" of a goat, only $10.00. By combining everyone's giving, Heifer is able to make a difference in the world.

Charity Watch

I recommend Heifer. I chose this group because I think people need the very basics to sustain life -- food, water, and shelter. I chose them after checking them out with the American Institute of Philanthropy, AIP, which operates the watchdog website Charity Watch.

In fact, I'd recommend that you never give a dime to a group without first checking them out with Charity Watch. They rate charities from A+ to F so if you want to make sure your money goes where a group tells you it goes, visit Charity Watch before donating.

My Support Requirements

Ability to donate in the name of someone else.

Ability to donate online with a card sent to the recipient.

Majority of the donated money to go for the programs, not staff salaries and bonuses.

No excessive funds held in reserve rather than used to help people.

No secrets -- full disclosure of basic financial information.

Spend little on fund raising.

Visit Charity Watch

When you check the Charity Watch website, you can read all their requirements. Of more than 500 charities rated, only a small percentage qualify for their Top-Rated listing which is B+ to A+. Heifer, with an A-, is Top-Rated.

By contrast, the American Cancer Society, which gets the bulk of donations to cancer groups analyzed by AIP, receives only a C+ rating because 97% of their overhead is paid for by contributions and only 60% of donation money goes to the stated goal of the charity.

If you're like me, you work hard for your money. You want to give, but you want to make sure your money goes for the intended purpose, not to pay for some power lunch and not to pay to create a blizzard of other requests from them every time the moon changes. Be smart about giving so you make each dollar count.

Takeaway Truth

Give with an open heart and your holiday gift will enrich your soul and help someone who may often go to bed hungry. It's easy, and it will change a life.

(Also published on Joan Slings Words, my other blog.)

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