How to Pick a Charity, Track Donations and Maximize Giving

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year is to increase the amount I donate to charities, causes, or organizations. 2010 will be my first calendar year with a full-time job so I thought the time was right to get off my butt and start helping others.

The problem was I didn’t know how much of my income I should donate and to what organizations the money should go to. I didn’t want to skimp and be cheap, but I also didn’t want to give more than 2-3% of my income.

Another concern was picking a charity. I’m not a “cause” guy. By that I mean I don’t wear blue for dolphins or take part in Rabies Awareness Fun Runs. I didn’t want to sort through the massive amount of charities and decipher between legitimate and fake, and look at how efficiently they were using their money.

Choosing a Charity

I decided a simple way to solve the problem was to help out those closest to me. Thanks to the power of Facebook, my friends occasionally post something about raising money for a charity or cause and whenever I see one of these posts I donate $25-50 to their cause.

This is the perfect chance for me to use my money effectively. It helps support a close friend, allows me to use my money for good and – most selfishly – is easy because I don’t have to do any research about the organization. In less than 5 minutes, the organization has my donation.

Life is good.

Tracking Donations

But what about the problem of not knowing how much to donate? Well, fortunately for me that hasn’t be an issue in 2010 since I’ve only donated to 3 charities. However, if you have a lot of friends who are active in charities than this could be an issue.

I suggest using a spreadsheet and labeling it “Charity Giving 2010″. Every time you make a donation, write it down on your spreadsheet and keep a running total of your giving for the year. You can set an amount you won’t go over at the beginning or the year or take it one donation at a time and see how your expenses are working out over the year (my choice).

Not only will the spreadsheet allow you to keep your expenses under control, but at the end of the year you’ll be able to check out your goal and see if you either gave enough, or, need to do some extra giving come the December holidays.

For once, I feel like I can use my resources to help out those around me and if you open your eyes and ears, you’ll find more people are asking for your help than you initially realized.

Need suggestions for donations?

Try:

American Red Cross – Disaster relief, promote health and safety and community services

Teach for America – Expanding education to America’s children

The Conservation Fund – Saved more than 6 million acres of America’s land

Susan G. Komen for the Cure – World’s largest network of breast cancer survivors and activists

Photo: Wonderlane

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