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Consider charitable giving to make the greatest impact

Posted December 21, 2020 3:24 p.m. EST
Updated December 21, 2020 6:25 p.m. EST

We’re all trying to help where we can this year. With COVID, we’ve seen the needs grow.

But before you donate to just any charity, 5 On Your Side’s Monica Laliberte has advice to make sure your money lands where it’s needed most.

Food banks are seeing a significant demand for donations. A recent survey found one in five people needed help from a food bank since the start of the pandemic.

Of course they take donations of non-perishables, but money remains the most helpful option, in part because food banks can buy goods wholesale and in bulk.

Charities can differ greatly as far as how much of what’s raised goes directly to programs, according to Margot Gillman with Consumer Reports.

"Effective charities devote much more of their operating budget to the services they provide than to their other expenditures, like salaries and marketing costs,” Gillman said.

You can vet an organization’s money split on Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. You can also check the charity’s website for information about its mission, a list of the board of directors and its latest financial reports.

“If the charity site doesn’t list its financial details online, the organization is not very transparent, which could be a red flag," Gillman said.

Be sure to watch out for fees, as well.

Online giving platforms are popular, but they often charge payment processing fees, some 3% or more. That’s money that’s not going to the charity, so consider giving the old-fashioned way with cash or a check.

With need so great right now, you want your donation to have the greatest impact.

If you don’t have extra money to give this holiday season, consider donating your time. Look for local volunteer opportunities by visiting Volunteer-Match or Idealist-dot-org.

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