November 15, 2011
A few weeks ago, the unspeakable happened. I lost my 48-year-old mother to cancer. As is typical of me, I felt incapacitated by my grief for two or three days. Then, as if my mother's voice was in my head urging me to action, I forced myself to think about what she would have wanted. The answer was clear: I should ensure that the world remembers her, and I should do all I can to help find a cure for this disease—something other than radiation or chemicals that kill healthy cells along with abnormal ones. I decided to start a new Christmas tradition. I vowed to donate the money I would have spent on a gift for my mom. But who to donate to? All charities are not created equal. Only a small fraction of each contribution has to go to the cause. I haven't made a decision yet; I'm still looking into which organizations will do the most with what I give them.
One resource I've been using is Charity Navigator. This easy-to-navigate site rates several charitable foundations, and provides rationale for the given rating. There is, in fact, a whole section of the site devoted to the methodology behind determination of financial health and intelligent use of donated funds. Using the information provided by Charity Navigator, I've determined that it's a much better idea to donate to Susan G. Komen for the Cure than the American Breast Cancer Foundation.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure gets 4 stars and 85 cents out of every dollar goes to the actual cause.
The American Breast Cancer Foundation gets only one star and over 58% of the donations it receives go to pay for "fundraising expenses." The lesson here is simple; look into an organization before you donate your hard-earned money. If you can't find information on how donations are handled, you might want to find another foundation. Any organization that lacks this kind of transparency is probably not doing a very good job of funding research or assistance to those in need.
And remember, your time is just as valuable as your money. There are lots of ways you can make a difference in your community.
Organizations like United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters always need assistance. Volunteers are also utilized by most hospitals and several library systems. If there's an organization serving the community, the chances are good that volunteers are utilized.
Be sure to ask lots of questions of the volunteer coordinator before you sign any contracts though. Giving should be on your own terms.
North Independence Branch