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Give Back. Feel Good.

salvation army volunteers

Salavation Army Volunteers at the 2011 Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas Copyright by WyoJones. All rights reserved. Used with permission. 

We’ve all seen it. The heart-rending TV ad. Or had the unsolicited phone call. The pitch with guilt attached. Only YOU can save fill-in-the-blank. Some are for real and some, well, they aren’t so real. Through the years I’ve heard of a lot of scam charities.

But even if you weed out the scams, there are still a LOT of worthy causes out there. I once counted up the number of appeals we got in a single month and even if we only gave each a small donation, it would quickly add up to a lot of money.

Since we have not yet learned how to create money out of the air, the hubs and I had to come up some criteria for how and when we make donations.

Some are fairly easy decisions. When we have physical things to give away, such as clothing or furniture, we take it to Goodwill. But how do you sort through the thousands of worthy causes out there in the wider world?

Well, the hubs and I came up with some criteria that works for us. First off, we look at how much of our donation goes to the cause and how much goes to overhead? We set the bar pretty high on that, because one of our favorite charities puts 100% of our donation toward helping others. Overhead costs are not funded with donations.

So that’s the first question I always ask.

I particularly love donating to LDS Philanthropies, because their reach is wide. I can donate to them knowing that every penny is helping someone somewhere in the World. From their website:

Two tenets of humanitarian aid defines Humanitarian Services:

1) 100% of every dollar donated is used to help those in need without regard to race, religion, or ethnic origin, and

2) Humanitarian Services helps people attain self-sufficiency so they can be self-reliant long after Humanitarian Services departs.

They are a tough act to follow and when someone pushes too hard on the phone, I tell them to call me back when their tenets are that good.

Our second criteria took longer to formulate. As I said, most causes ARE worthy, so what do you do? You can give small amounts to all of them, of course. We tried the piecemeal method for a few years, but so often our donation came back to us as an appeal for more money. In the end, it felt more like trying to fill an ocean with a spoon that actually helping.

As I studied charitable efforts and fielded multiple appeals from people confident THEIR charity was THE charity worth of our attention, I came to realize that people passionate about their charity had a reason. Their charity spoke to them in some personal way.

It was this very personal element that brought us to our second charity, when lymphoma touched our lives. When I was young, lymphoma was an automatic death sentence (and it still is for some forms of lymphoma). We were lucky. Our personal story has a happy ending. Through this experience we came into contact with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They fight blood cancers, but they also provide help and support for patients and families.

Both our daughters run for LLS, which makes us very proud. (One daughter is currently fundraising for LLS and you can check it out — but without the guilt attachment.)

Do you have a criteria for how you donate to worthy causes or do you go by the level of guilt generated during the pitch? You know I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive my monthly AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value).  Recipient is announced the first blog post of the new month.

Perilously yours,

Pauline

P.S. I particularly loved writing about World War II in Out of TimeYou want to talk about giving back. The Greatest Generation saved the world.

Out of Time cover art

What happens when a twenty-first century woman on a mission to change the past meets a thoroughly 1940s man trying to stay alive in the hellish skies over war-torn Europe?