Holiday Donations: How to Give Wisely

It’s that time of year when you’re phone rings off the hook and your mailbox is stuffed with letters requesting holiday donations.  According to the National Philanthropic Trust about 95% of U.S. households contribute every year with an annual average of about $3,000 per household.

As we wrote about last week, while many are opening up their wallets for good causes, others are looking to take advantage of that goodwill.

CharityNavigator has a fantastic checklist that helps easily break down how to determine whether your holiday donations are going to a worthy cause.  Check out their guidelines before doling out your hard-earned cash.

It’s important to make sure your holiday donations are going to a reputable charity, one that is a tax-exempt organization registered with the IRS (look for Form 990).

CharityNavigator recommends looking for charities that spend about 75% of its budget on programs, 15% goes toward administrative costs and 10% toward fundraising.

Another organization, GiveWell, analyzes the actual impact certain charities have on people’s lives, actually quantifying how much “good” they are actually doing.  Ironically their top charities (according to evidence-backed research) are extremely underfunded.

To make your holiday giving less stressful, you can also donate directly on GiveWell’s website, to the fully-vetted charity of your choice.

Images like this make the rounds on social media every holiday season.  While it’s good to be in the know, organizations like CharityNavigator and GiveWell suggest you do your own research to be confident in your donation decision.

Bottomline, be generous this holiday season but make sure you do your homework before cutting a check.

Now we want to know! Which organizations do you make holiday donations to?  How did you determine which ones to contribute to?