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Proactive charitable giving

Created date

October 27th, 2009
YLi1109_FeaturedMoneyMattersCharity
YLi1109_FeaturedMoneyMattersCharity

It s the season of giving, and if you re in the fortunate position to be able to help others, your charitable donation is needed more than it has been in decades, as many nonprofits struggle to stay afloat in the down economy. [caption id="attachment_6471" align="alignright" width="280" caption="(File photo)"]www.charitynavigator.org) that houses a wealth of information, including best practices for savvy donors, tips for older donors, and a variety of handy lists like 10 Highly-Rated Charities With Low-Paid CEOs. Once you ve identified some reputable organizations that you would like to help, evaluate your budget to decide how much you can give to each. However, be careful not to spread yourself too thin, Miniutti cautions. Unlike the stock market where you diversify to reduce your risk, with charitable giving it s best to stick with a couple of organizations over time, she says. If you only have $100, it s best to give to two organizations, not ten. Evaluating a charity s financial health can be difficult, but Miniutti says that as a rule of thumb, you should look for organizations that spend about 75% of their budget on direct programming. Otherwise, the donation you think is going to help cancer patients could actually just be paying a professional fundraiser s salary. In fact, Laurie Styron, an analyst with the Chicago-based American Institute of Philanthropy, says to be wary of charities that claim to spend 90% or more of donations on programming. That could be an indication that the group is bending the rules to include fundraising which has a small educational component such as programming. That is just semantics, Styron says. There is no way to raise money without spending some.

Avoid high-pressure pleas

Styron also cautions people to watch out for charities that use high-pressure techniques or try to convince you to donate this year by claiming that you gave last year. Perhaps you have written a check in the past, but some unethical groups could be relying on you not remembering whether you ve donated to compel you to give for the first time. If you re not familiar with the group, check your records and do your homework before you make a donation. You can also find tips for giving as well as top-rated charities at the American Institute of Philanthropy s website (www.charitywatch.org). meghan.streit@erickson.com

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