5 Ways To Give Money To The Poor

Not sure how to invest your donation for the good of those who most need it? Here are some tips for choosing a charity wisely.

If your heart is touched with a longing to donate money to a good cause, you may feel unsure which charities need or deserve your contribution the most. Before throwing a handful of dollars at the first cause to come along, consider these steps to help you decide where you want your donation to go:

1. Does this charity represent a cause that you have a passion for? Perhaps it helps to feed hungry children overseas. Or it may provide services to disenfranchised groups here in the United States, such as Native Americans or Asians. You may be more interested in offering a gift to a particular social service group that serves a special need, such as unwed mothers. Whatever your preferred cause, find out more about it before writing a check.

2. Learn more about the overall need either globally or nationally. Rather than donate to the first organization that catches your attention for world hunger, for example, find out about the various types of non-profit organizations that strive to meet this goal. You can browse the Internet in search of these agencies, or visit the local library for information about the types of relief agencies that are operating successfully, how long they have been in business, and whether their financial reports meet with public or professional approval.

3. Check out a specific organization before contributing. Ask for a copy of the annual budget report; many agencies make such information available to regular and potential donors. You also may want to visit the site if it operates in your area, as well as the location it serves. If the service area is located too far away for a visit, go to the Web site and see what is outlined there. Many charitable organizations have a Web presence these days, and chances are the one you're interested in will, too. Contact the people it purports to have helped and see what they say about the service they received.

4. Ask how your money will be spent. In large organizations, collections often go into the overall operating budget. But sometimes special collections are made to buy school supplies for kids, to provide immunizations against parasite infestation due to poor water, or for other fund-raising projects. Determine whether you want your donation to be used in a particular way or if you feel it is acceptable to simply add your contribution to the overall budget.

5. Do a follow-up check. After making a donation, whether one-time or ongoing, you may receive a letter indicating how your money was spent. If not, you may get a simple thank-you letter acknowledging receipt of your contribution. You may wish to get in touch with the agency to ask how the project you donated to is going: did they meet the goal? Was the project completed? Is it working out as expected?

To be an effective giver, take stewardship of your assets and learn more about the organizations to which you donate money. As news stories continue to report charitable abuses, you will be glad you did everything possible to check out your agency before putting your money into its pocket.

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