Many people, including many who regularly read this blog, have investment portfolios which they seek to optimize regularly. But what about our charitable giving portfolio? How often do we consider if we are making contributions to the most efficient and effective organizations related to the causes about which we are most concerned?
Most of us perhaps give our tithes and offerings to (or through) our local church, but then we respond to other appeals for financial help. And especially at this time of the year we are swamped with requests for charitable gifts. Through the requests found often in our mailboxes, by the appeals we receive in our e-mail inboxes, and from personal petitions made by religious or civic organizations, we are regularly asked to be generous in helping other people.
So, how should we decide which charities or causes to support? Do we respond primarily with our emotions, giving to those groups who best stir our feelings of compassion, concern, or guilt? Or do we have a planned charitable giving “portfolio”?
Let me suggest the following guidelines when considering a charitable gift:
(1) Does this gift help eliminate the root causes of problems more than just helping victims of those problems? For example, giving to help feed the hungry is good and important; giving to help eliminate the causes of hunger is better.
(2) Does this gift help solve problems in the future rather than merely meeting current needs? In spite of the needs of many Native Americans now, this is one main reason in my previous posting for suggesting giving to the Native American College Fund.
(3) Does this gift go to (through) an organization that is highly effective and efficient? Perhaps Charity Navigator, the leading independent charity evaluator in the country, is the best way to check the strength and integrity of charities. In their words, Charity Navigator “works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of over 5,500 of America’s largest charities.”
(4) Does this gift go to a group that meets the previous criteria but has relatively few supporters as opposed to those groups that have a great deal of support? Some of the charities or causes I support are not on Charity Navigator because they are too small or specialized, but partly for that reason I choose to contribute to them. For example, I recently sent a donation to Associated Baptist Press.
(5) For those of us who are Christians, the first question we should ask is: Does this gift reflect commitment to Jesus’ words, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness”? Even though I recognize that there are many “secular” groups that are consistent with seeking God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, mainly I want the charities to which I donate to be Christian in both how they operate and in the charitable work they do.
What other guidelines or charitable giving suggestions should be added?