October is breast cancer awareness month. This crippling disease hits home to many people throughout the world. By dedicating an entire month to being aware, people can learn to spot the early warning signs, and it lets them know that there are many ways that they can help. For those who may have been affected by cancer, they often turn to donating to charities involved in research to help prevent and cure the disease. Unfortunately, what happens too often is that they end up getting scammed.
Not All Charities Are As Good As They Seem
There are millions of charities and non-profit groups out there. Each one is begging for money, and each one has a plea for help. Many of them are fantastic. They raise money for a cause, and they push as much money as possible to that cause. They are truly philanthropic. But there are some that do not really help those they claim to be fighting for. In fact, the top 50 worst charities spend less than 4% of the money they bring in on the people they claim to be helping. This means that for every $1,000 they raise, only $40 goes toward what they want you to believe they are funding. The rest goes to line the pockets of the founders, pay for-profit companies to run the fundraising, and toward other “administrative” expenses. In order to protect yourself, and make sure your money is going where you think it is going, do a little homework before donating to any charity.
Finding information on your favorite charity should not be hard. Since all non-profit organizations are required to make their financial data public information, you can see any and all tax returns that you want. But that is a lot of work to dig through all that information. So instead of wasting your time, let someone else do the work for you. Head over to Charity Navigator where you can find out all the information that you need.
How to Use Charity Navigator
Navigating around the Navigator is pretty easy. At first glance, there is a lot going on with the site. But you can ignore most of it for now, and if you want to you can go back later, read their blog and explore. Right in front of the homepage is a bar and a prompt “Charity Search.” You can enter the name of the charity you are searching, or some keywords, such as “breast cancer.” The results will be a list that you can sort by name, ranking, city or state. A quick look at each result will tell you how much money goes to program expenses (this is where you want the bulk of the money to go), how much goes toward admin costs, and how much goes to fundraising and various other expenses. There is a lot of information for each organization, and how deep you want to dig is up to you.
Remember that there are several ways for you to make a donation aside from just cash. Sites like Boat Angel allow you to donate a used boat to charity. This option may not be for everyone, but if you have an older boat taking up space in the garage and you also feel like helping out a number of great causes, then you owe it to yourself to look into this unique type of charity. The donation can even be used as a tax write-off, so it is a win-win situation no matter how you approach it.
There are so many charities vying for our money, and it can be hard to say no all the time. Saying no is especially hard when some of those doing their fundraising are really good at their jobs. You end up feeling like a total jerk if you don’t “help out the kids with terminal illnesses.” But we know that the best way to not get scammed is to do plenty of research. So before you write your next check, look at their profile on Charity Navigator. You might be pleasantly surprised, or you might want to cancel your contributions.
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