Thursday, April 12, 2007

Which Bracelet Should I Pick?

Reports show there are almost 1.5 million non-profit charities in the USA. Even a generous pot of money will not go very far, so decisions must be made. You could decide which charities' bracelets you like best. It would make the process much simpler, that's for sure!
My husband and I have a rough annual charitable budget; the largest donations are earmarked for organizations/institutions with which we have the most connection and highest level of commitment- our congregation, local welfare organizations, schools we care about, and an interfaith organization where I serve on the Board. Then come significant (at least to us!) gifts to national organizations whose work we admire.
In addition we give dozens of small gifts to a variety of local, state-wide, national and international organizations. Many of these are responses to mail solicitations, since we are repeat donors. I hate being bombarded with mailings and have spoken with quite a few of these organizations, asking to receive just one annual appeal, and they generally comply. (Threatening to stop supporting them if they don't cool the mailings is compelling, though I try to be polite about it.)
We support a variety of environmental organizations, each with a slightly different mission. I have asked friends if they think it makes sense to donate smallish sums to a whole array of such causes, or larger gifts to just one or two. Processing a gift takes resources, and it certainly is more efficient to give one place $1000 rather than 10 causes $100 each. My friend Joy's answer was compelling. She reports that it is beneficial to organizations to show a wider donor base when they apply for grants, so in her words - go ahead and spread it around!
Another category of contributions is responses to personal appeals. I don't say yes to strangers (usually calling for the Fireman's Carnival or that sort of thing), but if friends solicit us for causes they care about, we generally contribute. I always say yes to whatever X-athon someone is willing to physically challenge themselves for, usually for medical research. I am a total sucker for kids who work for good causes! Now that most of these donations are online, it cuts back on the junkmail consequences. (Though last year I made a $25 donation to a hospital and I'm sure by now they've spent it all on follow-up mailings. This is totally annoying.)
An additional giving category is gifts and memorials. We give fewer and fewer material gifts, instead planting trees or following the family or couple's instructions if they designate a charity.
And this year, as I mentioned, I added a new category and it's the most fun: impulse giving. It's a great feeling to read about some wonderful work going on somewhere and sending them off an unexpected donation!
If you're new to this, it's a good idea to vet a potential recipient of your generosity at Charity Navigator and Guidestar. Though I don't think these charity evaluation sites as yet include the color of the charity's bracelets.

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