Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What I Know About...How to Give Within Your Means

I consider myself a frugal person, but that doesn't mean I can't also be a generous person. The ultimate goal of my frugality is remaining financially independent while also having the luxury of spending my money on what I truly want - and that includes causes I believe in. How do I feel good about my own charitable giving while also making sure I can save, pay bills, and buy wine? Here's what I've learned...
  1. Choose With Your Heart AND Your Head. We all have causes near and dear to us - I love food and reading, so I gravitate towards organizations working to end hunger or promote literacy. You may be an animal person, a human rights advocate, or a champion of clean air and water. Start there and look for an organization that will use your donation for what you want most for the planet. The trick is to not stop with the first thing that comes up in a Google search - do your research on any charity you want to support. Are they reputable? What do they use donations for (direct services and programs, salaries, or "administrative expenses")? Use a website like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, or Give Well to see how the charity of your choice uses your dollars.
  2. Stay Local. To avoid worrying about giving money to a faceless organization, find something close to you or close to someone you care about. Your church, school, and place of work are great places to start, but check out nonprofits that are literally in your neighborhood. Odds are you already know about these places and their reputations, and you can be sure your donation is directly assisting programs in your community. 
  3. Donate Smarter, Not More. Once you've decided on a charity, an organization, or something else you'd like to support financially, make a smart donation. Check to see if they have a matching program, where your donation is doubled by another (larger) corporation. Look into how the organization uses the money and see if you can mark it for a certain project or request that it be put into a certain fund (ie, an endowment fund where the original donation is never used, only the interest accrued from it). Look at the agency's calendar of events to see if they have any upcoming fundraising drives or events.
  4. Speaking of Events...Attend, volunteer at, and be involved with your charity's events. That's the best way to learn more about an organization and how they benefit from donors. Your involvement will also further invest you in their mission, which will help boost your feeling of generosity. Don't undervalue your donation of time and/or talent!

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