If you’re like me, perhaps you just forgot to look at the caller ID on our home phone or answered an 800 number on your mobile, thinking it was no big deal. But then you get blindsided with a request for a donation from the “International Charity for I’m-Talking-Too-Fast-and-Mumbling-So-You’ll-Never-Know-What-I-Said.” Before you can even ask “what? What organization again?” They tell you how easy it will be to donate and will save some person’s life by buying them a bottle of terminal-foot-fungus ointment. You feel bad for these people, and could make the $5 donation they’re asking for, but are unsure if your money will really reach the people its intended to help. So what do you do?

Well you have two options, and both are great:

  1. Say “no thanks, I already give through my church.” Because you do. If you’re paying fast-offerings, you can be confident that you’re donating to perhaps the most efficient charity program in the world. None of it goes to paying administrative expenses. And if you feel the least bit guilty saying this, double your fast offering. Blessings will follow.
  2. Say “hold on a minute while I look your organization up on Charity Navigator, then:
    1. go to CharityNavigator.org and ask them for the name of their organization again.
    2. type the name of the organization in the yellow search bar right under the tabs and click search.
    3. select the organization from the search results and review the quick reference guide to the organization. You’ll see things like how much of their money goes to administration, to the actual programs, etc.
    4. make your decision based on what you see here.

snippet from Red Cross profile

As a quick example I looked up The American Red Cross. At first glance they seem quite good: just under 92% of funds go into their programs, while less than 5% goes to administrative costs. However, scrolling a little further down I noticed that Gail J. McGovern, the President, gets paid $447,000 a year! While its a very small percentage of their overall donations, that’s not the kind of charity I want to support. That’s the kind of salary that gets people in it for the money, not for helping people. I realize that that size of organization needs a good exec, but going into charities should be something you do as a charity, and it shouldn’t be making you a millionaire over and over again, every two years.