November is almost here, which means you may start encountering more requests from charitable organizations than other times of year.
Which is great, except that sometimes charities are not all they claim to be. Sometimes an entire organization will be structured so that less than 1% of donations actually reach the people the charity claims to help, while the rest of the money gets diverted to marketing costs (i.e. paying telemarketers) and the CEO’s paycheck. Sometimes a single person will just decide to start telling strangers they represent a charity and attempt to collect cash donations. You really want to avoid both scenarios.
This is why it’s a good idea to decide in advance which charitable organizations you wish to support instead of waiting for others to approach you. If you’re looking for a new cause, research before you donate.
When you already know whom you’re giving money to, it makes it much easier to turn down those who call or email out of the blue because you won’t feel pressured. You can explain to callers that you have already done your giving for the year. Just ignore emails—I would hesitate to take an out-of-the-blue charity request email at face value.
If you’re checking out a new charity, the go-to resource is CharityNavigator.org. This website tells you how much a charity spends on marketing and how much money makes it into their programs, gives executive salaries and other financial information, as well as an overall rating of the organization. No mainstream charity is going to have zero operating expenses, but if you encounter one that devotes 99.5% of its revenue to salaries and marketing, with only 0.5% going toward programs, think twice about giving them anything.