Give-But Give Smart

During the holiday season, most people like to give to help others whether it's dropping money into the Salvation Army pot in front of their local stores or donating to an organized charity.

We live in the land of plenty. I've traveled enough in other parts of the world to realize that the poorest person in this country is rich compared to many struggling to put food on the table each keep a roof overhead...even to find clean water to drink each day.

Do Something Amazing

It's great to give to those not as fortunate during the holidays, but I'd like to challenge you to do something amazing. Adopt a charity or local group that you will support until next Christmas. Make a monthly gift, no matter how small, to a group that you've selected who are worthy of your support.

How to Find Worthy Groups

Before giving even a dime to any group, check them out on Top Rated by Charity Watch. The American Institute of Philanthropy, AIP, operates this watchdog group that rates charities from A+ to F based on how they use the donated monies.

Although Charity Watch now charges an annual membership fee to use their resources, they still offer their Top Rated lists free.

For instance, the American Cancer Society is not on the Top Rated list, but 13 other cancer charities including Cancer Research Institute are. (I don't know what their rating is now, but the last time I checked, American Cancer Society received only C+ because 97% of their overhead is paid for by contributions with only 60% of donation money going to the stated goal of the charity.)

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 goes to 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 Top Rated by Charity Watch

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

Takeaway Truth

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. Happy Holidays!

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