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Many of us will dig deep this Christmas season, writing checks, pushing coins into red buckets, and making online payments to charities before January 1. Americans are the most generous people in the world. Giving to charitable organizations in 2014 was recorded at more than $258 billion by Giving USA Foundation. It was 5.7% more than giving in 2013. That's a lotta dough.
We love to give, but we're also suckers for a "feel good" experience. The TV commercials that make us cry and tug at our heartstrings may not be the best places to send our money. And definitely not the ones who send us "free" gifts in the mail to make us feel guilty. I encourage you to take a serious look at what your favorite charities are doing with your hard-earned dollars after they get your check. There are great resources to find out what's happening with your donation. Here are two helpful links:
Visit your charity's website and find out if they post their financials and how much they spend to raise money. That's the real proof of the pudding. Organizations that spend a whopping 40% or more to raise more money are not a good value. That means a lot is spent on advertising, events, etc. and less is getting to those who need the help. If you can't find the information on their website, send them an email or give them a call. If the organization is unwilling to share those numbers, that's a red flag.
There are lots of great organizations that operate administrative and fundraising sides with 20% or less. Those are the ones I recommend you check into. Charity Navigator has information on the statistics if the organization is required to file a 990 with the IRS.
Giving is a serious responsibility and a matter of the heart. We must be sure that our gifts are thoughtful, generous, and done with the right attitude.
"You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT
If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Romans 12:8 NLT
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Malachi 3:10 NLT
Give generously, but give wisely. Don't be fooled by glitzy materials or guilt trips. Follow your heart to where you want to give, but find organizations that do it well. My personal top five are these:
1. My church
2. Africa Inland Mission
3. Samaritan's Purse
4. The Salvation Army (Local)
5. Care Net Pregnancy Center (Local)
Money isn't the only way to give, so do consider giving your time to your charity as well. I can tell you from experience, that's the most valuable gift many charities desperately need.
Be blessed and bless others this Christmas season.