To begin with, the safest place I have always found to send my donations to is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I donate to the Welfare Program I know every dime is going to the Welfare Program to provide for those less fortunate than I. When I donate to the Perpetual Education Fund then I know someone, somewhere is getting a higher education which will change their circumstances. From the Church's website we retrieve:
LDS Philanthropies serves as the central coordinating agency for all donations to the Church or one of its institutions—beyond tithing and fast offerings—with the goal of helping members and friends of the Church meet the needs of people worldwide. This is accomplished by focusing on those priorities selected and approved by the leaders of the Church and its institutions. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)The Church's Humanitarian Services is also a worthy charity which I strongly support. Through this branch of the Church's charities I know the monies I donate will go to help someone get a wheelchair or to aid those struck by natural disaster, etc. The Church springs into action as soon as tragedy strikes and usually, within 24 hours, is in place distributing needed and critical supplies to those suffering in the region.
So, for me, the safest place to donate my money, is there. But if you'd like to look outside the Church's Humanitarian and Welfare Services, then you can safely investigate charities at Charity Navigator, as seen on NBC's Today Show. Through this organization you can be assured you are not being scammed and your dollars are definitely going to a reputable charitable organization.
Now that we've established the "where and who" let's talk about balancing our charitable donations. It can become very easy to become so overwhelmed with disasters and tragedy, or other like circumstances, where we begin giving and giving and giving, then suddenly we can't make our mortgage or utility bills.
Sit down and carefully examine your budget. In one column put your expenses, in the other put your income, all income. If you have a positive balance you have a little something to work with, if its in the negative, you need to examine where you're spending your money and adjust accordingly. I know this is basic, but it is astonishing how may people don't know how to do this.
A great formula I have learned for donating was learned from a friend who attended a seminar on this particular topic. So, let me give you the basics and then you can pick up "Money . . . It's Not Just for Rich People" by Janine Bolon and learn this particular technique in-depth. You can also learn more from Janine at her blog called The Money Muse.
Your main income should be put directly into your bank account and used to support the needs of your family: mortgage/rent, utilities, car payments, insurance, groceries, clothing, medical needs, etc. If you have a second or supplemental income then you can break it out as follows:
1. Take 60% of that second or supplemental income and put it straight into your bank account so that you see an immediate 60% raise in your income to meet your expenses.
2. Take 10% of that second or supplemental income and pay tithing, in other words, if your Church has a tithe, pay 10% into it regularly and without fail.
3. Take 10% of that second or supplemental income and pay into a philanthropic organization. It doesn't matter which one, just make sure it is truly philanthropic.
4. Take 10% of that second or supplemental income and put it in a savings account until the amount reaches $2,500 then convert it to a CD. This account is to be used for short term emergencies such as car repairs, medical bills, etc. Then continue to pay into that CD.
5. Take the last 10% of that second or supplemental income and open a second savings account until the amount reaches $2,500 then convert it to an IRA. Then continue to pay into that IRA.
If you stick to this formula you will be astonished at the results which will come from being disciplined and organized in your charitable donations, as well as your savings a preparations for the downtime of income flow, which all suffer from at one time or another. With this formula your family is taken care of and you are able to help others as well.
However, never forget that money can never replace the human touch.
- Does a neighbor's yard need edging and mowing.
- Is her flower garden becoming overrun with weeds due to circumstances you are not privy too?
- Does the widow on your street need help with her swamp cooler, sprinklers, etc.
- Is there a single mother in your neighborhood in need of some free babysitting so that she can fill the well within.
- Does your local soup kitchen need some workers?
- Do the Big Brothers/Sisters program need more big brothers and sisters?
- Do the clients at a Senior Citizen Center need someone to come read to them?
- Do the ESL programs in your city need volunteers?