You know the saying, “It’s the thought that counts”?
I generally agree with that, but when it comes to donating to charities/non profits, I want to make sure both my thought and donation really count. (This is a companion piece to “The Ultimate Guide to Catholic-friendly Charities.”)
Not all charities are the same. Some manage their money well and serve those in need tremendously; others are less careful with cash and aren’t as efficient as they could be.
We all have incredible power to do so much good in the world, be it through our God-given gifts, time or resources. I want to make sure my money benefits the causes I care about that are in line with Christian values.
Here are 7 things I consider before making a donation:
1) What cause do I want to support and is it in line with Catholic values?
Perhaps this is the most obvious, but where your money goes reflects your values. Do you want help the homeless? The sick? The elderly? Children? There are so many worthy causes & you get to decide!
I don’t only donate to Catholic charities because I also like to support certain medical research, like for Alzheimer’s, which my grandma has.
I stay away from causes that don’t align with the teachings of the Catholic Church. For example, donating to a nonprofit that provides abortions doesn’t reflect the value of the sanctity of life. Likewise, donating to a humanitarian charity that hands out contraception like candy also goes against the Church’s design for sex.
Another way to frame it: which cause am I passionate about that also helps to carry out or spread God’s mission?
2) How do they use their money?
I like to know the charity I’m supporting will be a good steward of my money.
I generally like to donate when at least 90% of a donation goes directly back to the cause. I’m OK with up to 10% going to operational expenses, like marketing, fundraising or salaries.
There’s a caveat to that because I don’t agree with CEOs of charities making exorbitant salaries. One charity I researched years ago was paying its CEO $700,000. I imagine the demands of being a CEO are extremely stressful, but I don’t think it’s right that a charity created to help the poor and underprivileged pays its CEO almost 3/4 of a million dollars per year.
One website that is really helpful in publishing this type of information about thousands of charities is Charity Navigator. I think a little bit of research can go a long way!
3) Who is running the organization?
You don’t need to personally know the people who run the charity/non profit, but it’s good to know whether the leaders are people who openly criticize Christian values, like family life.
For example, I won’t donate to a charity if the leader/CEO is publicly supportive of embryonic stem cell research or abortion. It feels like I’d be indirectly supporting that person and giving them a bigger platform by donating money to their charity.
It’s easy to find another charity with a similar mission that espouses Christian values.
4) What other nonprofits, if any, does the charity support?
Some charities keep all of the money you donate for its own cause, but others give part of their funds to other nonprofits they support. For example, some charities donate the money they raise to Planned Parenthood. No thank you!
5) Should I donate time, money or items?
Donating money is probably the easiest and fastest way for you to help out, but some organizations may be more in need of your time (like a non profit tutoring group) or things (like non perishable food to a pantry or used clothes to Salvation Army). Some places even accept cars, new toys or stocks as donations.
At the end of the day, what you donate isn’t as important as the intention behind it – to help others!
6) How much should I give?
Once I feel comfortable supporting a charity, I decide how much I’m going to give.
2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one should give as much as he has decided on his own initiative, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
As 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, it’s up to the individual to decide. It’s a personal decision; one that shouldn’t be forced. A prudent assessment of your financial situation can help this decision. Prayer, of course, should guide you as well.
Remember, Mother Theresa says, “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”
It’s worth noting that most donations are tax deductible, up to the amount allowed by law. If you want to take advantage come tax time, save receipts for donations!
7) Can I double this?
Your employer may match all or part of your donation to a charity. You can check your company handbook or talk to HR to find out!
If that’s not an option, ask a family member if they’d be willing to match your gift or give 50 cents on the dollar.
One of my goals this year is to be more generous by donating more money – and be more cheerful about it! I know that’s not a very specific monetary goal, but I’ll let God be the judge of whether I’m actually being more generous.
To be honest, I sometimes feel hesitant to part with my money, but this is just built on the irrational fear that God and my family won’t take care of me if I fall on hard times and also my own pride in wanting to be financially independent.
See, I told you I have flaws!