Donating time, money, or other items to charity is incredibly fulfilling and a great way to help the world around you. But how do you find charities to give to? And, just as importantly, how can you know if those charities are legitimate?
When it comes to finding the right charity for you, you should start by considering what cause you want to support.
Do you want to give back to a community or school that supported you? Most schools and community organizations will have donation directions on their website. If there isn’t a specific place you’re looking to support—say you just want to donate back to the people in your city—you’ll have to find the right charity. Websites like volunteermatch.org can help. With this site, you enter your city and it will list charities in your area. You can also ask friends or family members, check community message boards, and more.
Or perhaps you’re less focused on a specific location and more interested in a cause. Whether you’re passionate about protecting wildlife, assisting with a natural disaster, or just about anything else, you can most likely find multiple charities that align with your interests with a simple internet search.
You can also give on a very personal level. Do you have a friend whose apartment recently flooded? Do you know a family with a child who has a major medical condition? Giving directly to someone who’s struggling can make a huge impact. You may consider searching crowdsourcing sites if you want to donate this way. You should be careful, though, as it can be hard to verify the legitimacy of these campaigns.
There are many worthwhile charities you can donate to. But there are also scammers who claim to represent charities when they don’t and charities promising to do work for a cause whose leadership is more interested in benefitting themselves.
If someone asks you to donate money—in person, by phone, or online—take a closer look before you give. The first, and easiest, way to do this is to do your research. Check out their website, read through any recent news articles or reviews, or find out how they plan to use the money.
Another option is to search for the organization in a database that registers charities. Any of the following could be a great option:
These sites include ratings, reviews, and summaries of charities so that you can feel confident that your money is going to the right place.
Finally, trust your gut. If something feels off about a charity you’re considering, it probably is. Potential red flags include if they aren't open about what they’ll do with your donation, if they don’t have a clear and actionable plan, or if you feel pressured to donate immediately.
While cash donations may be the first thing that comes to mind, donations of time, food, special skills, blankets, or other less-conventional things can be just as impactful. For example, you could serve food at a soup kitchen, knit hats for babies in the NICU, or help the residents of an assisted living facility connect digitally with faraway loved ones. The possibilities are endless. So, if you want to give but don’t feel that you have room in your budget, don’t worry! There are still plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in doing good.
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