Give Wi$ely

I have always been someone who donates to causes I believe in.    At my previous employer, I had the option to contribute to the United Way directly from my paycheck, making it easy for me to donate.  I would also give to other organizations that contacted me, both local and national.

When I was laid off for a good part of last year, I had to stop my donations since I wasn’t sure when I would be employed again.  I resumed donating to select charities when I started with my new employer in January, .

I now work for a financial institution which has a much stricter dress code than my previous employer.  Once or twice a month they have a “Jeans Day” where we donate $5 to the cause du jour for the privilege of wearing jeans at work.  This past week our donations went to Meals on Wheels.  With the various Jeans Day events last year, employees donated $32,000+ to charitable organizations!    Since our company is located across NY and Pennsylvania, the donations go to local chapters of the chosen organization.  Jeans Day is a win-win for employees, the company and the community.

When I donate to an organization I want to know my money is going to help the organization out and not be spent on fundraising and other overhead.  When someone calls me to request money I ask what percent of my money will go to the actual cause.  Most of the time, these calls are from companies paid to call people to request donations.  I usually get a vague answer like “there’s an 85/15 split”.  This usually means the fundraiser gets 85% and the charity gets 15%.   In this case I decline to contribute and tell them I’d rather my money go to a charity that will get to keep more of my money.

There’s a great website called Charity Navigator, that supplies information on over 5500 charitable organizations.  It is an independent charity evaluator that appraises the health of America’s largest charities.  The website has some interesting lists, such as charities with the highest administrative costs, ratings for celebrity endorsed charities, and fastest growing charities.

If you want to make sure your money is being used wisely, check out Charity Navigator.

I got a great comment from Steve Manno on LinkedIn regarding this subject that I wanted to share with others:

Nice article. We all want to know if the charitable gifts we subscribe are used wisely. There are a few easy ways to find out, the simplest of which is internet research. As you cite in your article, checking out for a simple profile and efficiency ranking is wise. Perhaps you can compare that to other favorite or respected non-profits. You can also pull their IRS form 990 from That requires a free membership, but it is totally worthwhile and gives you all the fiscal details. You should also ask the organization for a copy of their annual report if not posted on their website.


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