My Top 3 Strategies for Vetting Charities
This year’s Thanksgiving is going to be odd for my family. We’ll have less than half as many people as usual, and we’ll be eating outside, as two of us will need to be distanced from the rest of the family.
Despite facing a brutal year and missing family who won’t be able to attend Thanksgiving, I remain grateful. One way I express that gratitude (that makes me feel even happier) is by giving to causes that are important to me or to my friends and family.
There are so many worthy causes out there. Unfortunately, there are also some that sound worthy but pay their executives exorbitant salaries and do not use much of their funds to help those in need.
There are a few ways of ensuring your generosity is used properly. Donate to causes that you know personally, or use a site that rates charities.
Charity Watch Groups
There are organizations that evaluate charitable organizations based on a number of factors, including their financial health, the percentage of funds that go to programs versus administrative expenses, the independence of the board of directors, etc.
Not all worthwhile charities are rated by these organizations.
If one is not rated, it doesn’t mean it has issues. But if one that you’re considering comes up with a low rating, it’s worth understanding why before donating.
Charity Navigator has been around for 19 years and rates 160,000 charities.
CharityWatch is 25 years old and bills itself as “America’s most independent, assertive charity watchdog.”
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, affiliated with the Better Business Bureau, rates charities based on 20 variables.
These three organizations don’t all rate the same charities, so it’s worth checking more than one of them when researching the charity you’re interested in.
Causes on My Short List
I prefer to donate to organizations that I have experience with or to organizations where I know the leaders. That has led me to build connections with organizations in a variety of categories…
- Health. For example, The Oxford Club is a big supporter of The Roberto Clemente Health Clinic in Nicaragua. Oxford Club CEO and Executive Publisher Julia Guth is Chairwoman of the Clinic’s Board.
I have visited the Clinic twice and met its staff. It does incredible work for the people in that region of Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
The Clinic also helped a friend of mine who was badly injured in an accident years ago, so I am very thankful that the staff was ready and able to assist.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Eta ripped a hole in the Clinic’s roof and caused other damage.
If you’re inclined to donate to health-related organizations that have a direct and meaningful impact on people’s lives, please consider giving to The Roberto Clemente Health Clinic.
- Kids and financial literacy. Another organization that The Oxford Club supports and that I have personally volunteered with is World of Money.
I have long believed that an important way to improve equality and opportunity in this country is through financial literacy.
World of Money provides financial education to underserved children and families to break generational cycles of poverty.
I have volunteered in its classrooms working with kids, and let me tell you, the kids and the educators are amazing.
The students devour information from the financial professionals teaching them. I was blown away at how good the program is and how much these kids wanted to learn.
- Veterans. Years ago, I lost a bet here in Wealthy Retirement. I promised I’d make a donation to an organization voted on by Wealthy Retirement readers. The winning organization was Disabled American Veterans. I’ve continued to support the organization since that day.
Charitable Giving Gets Even Easier
If you’re an Amazon customer, you can use AmazonSmile to direct 0.5% of eligible purchases to the charity of your choice. Once you enroll, it’s an effortless way to support your favorite charity.
There are also new tax incentives this year that encourage filers to donate to charities. If you take the standard deduction, you can take a $300 deduction for charitable giving on top of the standard deduction.
If you itemize, you can take up to 100% of your adjusted gross income for cash donations.
(As I always recommend, be sure to talk with a tax professional before making any tax-related moves.)
This year has been a doozy to say the least. There are a lot of people hurting and many worthwhile organizations that need help.
If you plan to give this year, be sure your money is used wisely.
About Marc Lichtenfeld
A master of the steady, reliable science of income investing, Marc’s commentary has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and U.S. News & World Report. He has also appeared on CNBC, Fox Business and Yahoo Finance. His book Get Rich With Dividends: A Proven System for Double-Digit Returns achieved best-seller status shortly after its release in 2012. He captures the hearts and minds of readers approaching their golden years in his daily e-letter, Wealthy Retirement.