Over 95% of American households actively give to charitable organizations, with statistics indicating continuous growth in contributions. If you want to give back but either aren’t sure you’re in the position to do so or simply don’t know where to begin, bear in mind that most organizations accepting monetary donations are also in need of time from volunteers. Regardless of how much you can give, no amount of money or time is too big or too small. Here are some ways to get started.
Find the right cause
It can be incredibly satisfying to work to support a cause that has meaning to you. Whether you’re drawn to a particular issue based on your own life experiences or you just notice that a charity’s mission statement really pulls at your heartstrings, try to find an organization that inspires and moves you.
Do your research
To ensure you are investing in a reputable organization, use free websites like Guide Star and Charity Navigator—these sites exist to provide background information for registered charities. Containing a database of almost two million IRS records for non-profit organizations, Guide Star offers a transparent look at executive salaries and the percentage of funds given back to a cause. Meanwhile, Charity Navigator publishes a ratings system based upon accountability and financial health. With so many charities from which to choose, it’s well worth making sure your time and money actually go toward the cause you wish to support (rather than lining someone’s pockets).
Several companies offer “give back” programs, typically in the form of tax-deductible donations taken directly from paychecks. This financial contribution can be easily set up through most human resources or payroll departments. Some companies also allow employees to convert vacation time into charitable contributions and will even match donations up to a certain dollar amount.
Word of Mouth
Ask your friends and family members to share information about their favorite organizations, along with personal experiences. This is a great way to become acquainted with a range of causes, and opens up opportunities to form teams and bond at events. Giving is contagious—before you know it, it will be your turn to pay forward the lesson that the gift is in the giving.