Charitable Giving During the Holidays


By: , – Celia Shatzman, Family Circle
  :  12 comments   :  7,022 Views

When people learned of the devastating earthquake in Haiti two years ago, they responded quickly and generously, raising $300 million dollars in just over a week. Whether inspired by a large-scale tragedy or old-fashioned goodwill, we're a nation of altruists, with an estimated 40 million Americans giving to charity each year. And there are plenty of causes to choose from. Since 1995, the number of tax-exempt nonprofits has nearly doubled, to about 1.5 million. Problem is, fraudulent groups are growing at the same rate. In the case of Haiti, for example, several organizations soon came under scrutiny for mishandling funds, and people are still questioning how much aid actually made it to those in need. So before you hand over your hard-earned money, it pays to take a few simple precautions to guarantee your gift will truly make a difference. 
Conduct a background check. 
Experts say there are three things you should look at to determine if a charity is worthy of your support: financial health, accountability and growth. All tax-exempt nonprofits are required to file a tax form annually with the IRS and make it available to the public. Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing and CFO of Charity Navigator, the country's largest charity evaluator, suggests going to the Foundation Center's website (, which posts these documents online. "See how the group is spending its money—the majority should be going toward services—and whether the salaries are reasonable," she says. "A good benchmark is 75% for charitable work and 25% for fundraising and overhead costs." Financially sound organizations typically have a long-term history of growth—ideally, 3% to 5% a year. Steer clear of groups that are cutting back on programs, which could signal trouble. If they shut their doors, they may take your contributions with them.
Click here for more tips about charitable giving from Family Circle.
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How will you support charitable causes and make a difference this Holiday season?

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    Today is day 5 of my first week on SparkPeople. Learning about all the things offered on the site is a little overwhelming. However, I am determined to muddle through. - 7/22/2013   1:30:44 PM
  • 11
    I give during the year at my church. I also go through my closets and drawers at the end of the year and donate to Goodwill. Frees up closet space and I get the deduction. If i have not worn it or used it in over a year.... Gone. - 1/1/2012   10:02:10 AM
    I do an angel tree item - 12/27/2011   1:23:21 PM
  • 9
    We give all year long as the needs don't only appear during the holidays. First we tithe to our local church, second we give offerings above the tithe to organizations that have a bigger impact.
    To feed the hungry we give to the local Salvation Army for local hunger, World Relief for international hunger, and the local food bank for next door hunger.
    Also we give of our time teaching others to manage their money better so they will be able to give more too. Our church is hoping to open a free medical clinic soon. Remember, the need is year round! - 12/21/2011   10:57:22 PM
    Colorado has a Colorado Gives day (held on Dec 6 this year). Last year was the initial year and they were hoping for $1M. Instead, more than $8M was donated. This year more than $12M was donated! In fact the donations came in so fast and furious that the website had problems, so the Colorado Gives day was extended another half day. - 12/21/2011   8:10:37 PM
  • 7
    The Salvation Army gives ALL the money it receives for charitable things to where the money was specified. The people who work and get paid get paid from different funds.

    The American Red Cross keeps at least 10% of all donations to pay their employees... Most other groups keep some of the funds for "expenses". - 12/21/2011   8:32:27 AM
  • 6
    Good article, and thanks for sharing! From a small business owner's perspective, here's an interesting blog written on charitable contributions - 12/21/2011   8:00:19 AM
  • 5
    I've started making a (for me) large donation to either UNICEF, Nothing But Nets, the American Friends Service Committee, the Heifer Project,, or Doctors Without Borders every Chanukah. Other trust-worthy organizations can be found at - you can pay for a teacher's salary, send a child to school, purchase books, purchase medical supplies - on and on.

    Also, our synagogue buys and wraps gifts for children at the women's shelter and the foster care house here - DH and I spent Sunday morning wrapping and labelling gifts. It's a very rewarding experience. - 12/21/2011   7:14:01 AM
  • 4
    I like to give locally, mostly to our local Meals on Wheels. During the holidays I usually also give to Salvation Army. I wish I could give more. - 12/21/2011   6:48:32 AM
  • 3
    Please give to ROTARY if you know a Rotarian or Rotary Club in your area. Rotary is an all-volunteer service organization. Your money will ALL GO to the project or charity... - 12/21/2011   2:27:10 AM
  • 2
    I donate to as well as locally. I do not give cash to people by the side of the road, because I don't think it is safe for people to beg in traffic; instead, I donate to the local homeless shelter and food banks. - 12/21/2011   2:04:48 AM
    Check out your favorite charity through the Better Business Bureau website.

    Another way to be sure your money goes to a good cause is to contribute to charities in your own community, where you can see the results. For examYou don't even have to don't have to contribute money. Bring non-perishable foods to your local Food Bank, or buy an extra frozen turkey at holiday time to donate. My local food bank can purchase $10 worth of food for every $1 in donations, and I know it goes to needy families & seniors right in my own town. Buy toys for the Toys for Tots or Salvation Army holiday programs. Donate children's coats & jackets to the local Coats for Kids programs. You don't even have to spend your money. Volunteer at a local charity, soup kitchen, hospital, school, library, assisted living center. I recently read a report that stated volunteers ours save a non-profit organization an average of $15/hour in operating costs. - 12/21/2011   1:15:03 AM

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