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How Do You Decide Where to Donate?

How do you determine where to donate?  Which causes deserve your hard-earned money?  With all the stories in the news about corrupt charities, how do you ensure your money actually supports your chosen cause?

Donating is Important

A few years back I wrote a piece on why it’s important to donate to Charity.   If you were to go back and read that post you would learn about how I choose to set my donation amounts.  Giving is an important part of our life.  But how do I decide whom I give to?

How to Donate?

Earlier this year I wrote a post on what form of charity we actually utilize and why there is no excuse not to do so.  Everything from donating excess stuff, to time, and even to money.   Those different forms of donation have some relation to the charities I choose to patronize.

Where to Donate As Dictated By Donation Type

The reality is some things like excess stuff I donate because it is better for the environment and others to pass along.  Essentially the charities that would best benefit from some of these items are limited.  So sometimes what you are donating defines where to donate.    

I tend to prefer Goodwill for my excess stuff.  I know some people do not like Goodwill due to their executive pay numbers.  While I share some of these concerns the overall mission of Goodwill is one I support.  That of helping those less fortunate to integrate into the workforce.

These limits on donation choices also come into play with things like donating extra frequent flyer miles.  I have in the past donated excess miles from Qantas rather then let them expire.  In that case, my only choice was Unicef.  Essentially an option of one means they got the donation.

Finally with our time sometimes our options are limited.  With 3 kids you can imagine I live a busy life.  So it is difficult to find a charitable event that lines up with my busy schedule.  Therefore I tend to choose options that can be done when I am available.

When To Donate Time, Understand Your Work Policies 

In fact, my work has a policy that allows you to spend some a few hours during the work month volunteering.  I tend to prefer this time slot as I have less conflicts with my family schedule if I volunteer my time during the week.  A note I do work a busy schedule at work, so I still work a 40 hour week even when I step out during the week for charity.  I tend to do charity work either for charities that operate during the workday or opportunistically when I travel.  

My last volunteering event as of this writing was the charity operation for Foster Care at Fincon.  I made it a point to make myself available for the full hour of the charity event.  It honestly wasn’t much of an impact on my life, but I know it had a large impact on someone else.

Plan Ahead

Given I target 5% of gross income as donation to charity, not everything we give is restricted to limited choices.  Particularly the cash donations we give each year are highly targeted and planned well ahead of time.   These donations go to causes I am particularly passionate about.  Simply put, the more passionate I am about the cause the more impactful the donation feels to me.     If I didn’t care about the cause then honestly I don’t think I would donate in the first place.

Donate to from Where You Have Benefited

In years past I have highlighted some of our donations in our year in review posts.  One example from years past has been the local fire company.  With the volunteer unit staffed by friends of ours and having come to my wife aid after a car crash a few years ago, it just felt right to give back.

Donate to Where You are Passionate

More recently I have been donating to organizations that help children.  Whether it be foster care or something else.  We are a year into being foster parents.   At this time we have had 3 children come into our lives.  We have also been in contact with other foster parents.  The net of that is we have had exposure to maybe a handful of kids of various ages that are going through the system.  The stories are heartbreaking.   I mean really heartbreaking.  

We promised ourselves we’d only ever foster one child at a time given we already have 2 kids.  Even so to some extent we feel guilty not being able to help more of these kids.    Realizing for our sanity we can’t go beyond one we have made it a point to donate to other causes surrounding children in need as a way to hopefully have a similar impact.  Again something we are passionate about.

Where to Donate and Company Matching

One more thing to consider when planning your monetary donations.  Some company’s will match your donations to a qualifying organization.    You definitely should check with your company to validate if they have such a program and whom it would cover.   A match can magnify your impact.    My company matches dollar for dollar for any valid charity.     They previously limited this to a single charity, but by popular demand expanded the options.  I definitely take advantage of this match.

Check Your Charities Credentials

Now as passionate as I am about this I am also not foolish.  The stories of corrupt charities are not a myth.  I have encountered poorly run charities and straight-up fake charities.  A fake charity would mean my company wouldn’t match the funds and more importantly my money wouldn’t go to help anyone.    Even a poorly run charity would mean much of my money is wasted.   I work to hard to burn money on fake charities.

You can use a site like Charity Navigator to validate your charity.  Simply search for your charity.  The results will tell you about the percentage of donations that go their cause, if any organization has vetted them, and even the controls they have in place to avoid corruption.  I always check up on my charities before providing funds.

How do you decide where to donate your resources?


  1. Abigail @ipickuppennies
    Abigail @ipickuppennies October 10, 2019

    My main charities are Planned Parenthood (which has helped me in the past, when I was too poor to afford birth control) and Feeding America, which helps food banks around the country. Last year I also gave to NAACP. But I’m going to vary it up a bit and try to find some new ones as well. Thanks for the link to finding out charities’ numbers. That will come in very helpful when I’m trying to decide where to give!

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 17, 2019

      Glad I could help. Sounds like you found good groups based on your passions and personal experience.

  2. Sam
    Sam October 13, 2019

    I give to local charities run by volunteers as I like to see y money at work. I also buy coats year round on Sundays at Goodwill ($1) for our annual “Coats for Kids”.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 17, 2019

      Local charities are often overlooked as the global poverty story gets more air time. But I’ve found the local charities have just as much need or more. Great choice and thanks for the comment.

  3. Katie Camel
    Katie Camel October 21, 2019

    I’m glad you mentioned Charity Navigator, since I’ve used them multiple times in the past. Other than the public library, I don’t give to large organizations. I’ve found a few local organizations over the years that I see doing great work on shoestring budgets, so I give to those organizations. They keep their overhead low and no one receives a CEO salary, so I know more of my money goes to those who need it most. I’ve also volunteered with a few of these organizations, so I know how they are.

    Thanks for helping out at FinCon! I did that too and packed a ton of bags – what a great way to quickly give to others!

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 22, 2019

      I love the approach of helping out locally. A great way to see your impact.

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