The winter holiday season is fast approaching, and for many people, this means giving to charities.
There are so many more options at the end of the year, from toy-drives and food-drives to appeals for donations, that it can be difficult to make a choice.
Read on for 5 tips on donating time and money to charitable causes.
- Do Your Research
Not all charitable organizations are created equally. Before you donate your time and money, take some time to do your due diligence.
Before giving to charities, you’ll want to find organizations that support your values and that put most of your money to work where they promise it will go.
Sites like Charity Navigator can help you find organizations you’ll feel confident about supporting.
- Think Local
While national and international charities like the United Way and the Red Cross are high-profile, you may feel better donating to local agencies if you really want to have an impact where you live.
Seek out local nonprofits that put your dollars to work directly in your community. Local organizations are also the best choice if you want to donate your time rather than (or in addition to) funds.
Small, local nonprofits rely on volunteers, and every extra pair of hands helps. Call or email to see if they have regular volunteer days if donating time is how you want to give back.
Check to see if the organization you select has an Amazon Wish List or otherwise has expressed what items or dollar amounts would be most helpful to their mission.
When giving to charities, it’s always wise to find out directly from the organization how you can be of most help.
- Give Charities Dollars
Sure, it feels good to donate warm blankets or toys at the holidays. And there are definitely times when donating goods is appropriate.
However, for the most part, charitable organizations can do more with cash than they can with things.
Food banks, for instance, can stretch your dollars much further than you can even when shopping with coupons and other discounts.
Donating cash also allows organizations to allocate funds where they are most needed and to avoid having an excess of some items and a lack of others.
- Donate Quality Items
If you do donate items, be sure to donate the type of things you would like to receive. Take your ratty winter coats and out-of-style clothes to a clothing recycler rather than donating them to a local charity.
If you donate food, donate the kinds of things you would want to eat. People in need are, above all, still people — and especially at the holidays, they deserve as much as anyone else to receive items that are of high quality as well as useful.
- Think Practically When Donating Items
If giving to charities for you means donating to a food drive, then you’ll want to think in terms of practicality.
Single-serving items, cans with pop tops, and other items that can be easily opened, won’t require cold storage, and can be eaten straight out of the package are optimal.
Also consider donating gluten-free and nut-free items to food pantries — people who are food insecure often must choose between following medically important diets and actually having enough to eat.
Menstrual hygiene products are a high priority everywhere.
If you want to donate items, ask your chosen agency what things they never receive enough of to meet demand. Look for an “Urgent Need” link on a nonprofit’s website for specific, up-to-the-minute ideas.
It’s a little-known fact that socks are the single most requested item in homeless shelters. So you can’t go wrong picking up a few packages of socks for men, women, and children. Just be sure what you donate is brand-new and unused.
Giving to charities helps make a difference in the world no matter the size or form of your donation. Just take the time to make sure your gift will have the most impact.