In the spirit of giving, we all want to do our best to give meaningful gifts. Along with shopping to find the perfect gift for our loved ones this Christmas, many of us also feel the need to do what we can and give to those who are less fortunate. It can be overwhelming when there are so many charities vying for your help and your donation dollars in the spirit of giving.
Here are five tips on how to make the most of your charitable gift giving.
Don’t feel you have to donate to every charity
There are over 1,000,000 registered charities, so don’t feel guilty about saying “no”. Be wary of charities that ask for a donation over the phone and never give out your credit card information to telephone solicitors. If you feel comfortable and want to contribute to a charity who contacts you by phone, ask them to mail you the information.
Choose an organization that has some personal meaning to you
We all have areas of our life that touch us and make us want to do something to effect change. Figure out what is important to you and try to find a charity that fits. You can find a charity for just about anything including arts and culture, medical research, environmental issues, and international aid.
Research the charity before you give
Before choosing a particular charity you will want to check the charity’s efficiency or the percent of spending that actually goes to the cause. Most charities have administrative and fundraising costs that are paid for by donor dollars. Financial journalist and author Jean Chatzky, recommends donating to charities where at least 80% of your money will go directly to solving the problem. MoneySense has come up with the 2011 Charity 100 which grades 100 Canadian Charities on how they perform in overall efficiency, fundraising efficiency, governance and transparency and reserve fund size.
Consider Gifts with Meaning
This year, consider giving a gift with meaning where a portion of the proceeds will go towards helping a particular cause or support fair trade initiatives. There are some great websites that offer these types of gift purchases. Charityvillage.com is a good place to start and lists websites for Canadian non-profits that sell their products online. They include product categories for everything including arts and crafts, books, cards, ornaments, fair trade, novelty and gift items. Ten Thousand Villages is another site that offers a wealth of fair trade products available both online and at several storefront locations.
Volunteer Your Time
Not all charitable giving has to include your money - your time is just as valuable. We all live busy lives and our time is precious. There are many charities that recognize this and offer a lot of flexibility for people who would like to volunteer to help. Whether you have a few hours for a fundraising event or can fit a more scheduled amount of time to volunteer, most charities will appreciate the extra help. Volunteer.ca has some great tips on how you can get started and will help you find local opportunities and volunteer centers in your area.