Giving Tuesday: How to donate to a charity with purpose and intention

Photo of folded dollar bills with a red gift ribbon placed on top against a light pink background.
Westend61/Getty Images

Giving Tuesday is this week. It’s a day when charities ask us to take a break from our holiday shopping and open our wallets to worthy causes.

If you’re wondering which organizations to support or how much money to donate, Kevin Scally of Charity Navigator has some advice to help you make the right decisions. His group evaluates the effectiveness of over 200,000 nonprofit organizations.

In general, he says, donating to a charity is a lot like voting for an issue you believe in — except “you’re voting where you’re putting your money.”

And those efforts should be celebrated. “If you’re [giving] to causes that ultimately are working to bolster society, it’s a good thing,” adds Scally.

Here are five tips to consider when donating.

Make a list of the issues you care about

Get a pen and paper and “take inventory of [the causes that] matter to you,” your family, your local community “and the greater global community,” says Scally.

Maybe you had “a family member that was afflicted by a chronic illness,” he says. Is there some way to support them? Or look at “the political and social events that are happening. How do you want to give back? In what specific way?”

This exercise can help you narrow down the list of issues you care about and make your philanthropy more strategic.

Use your household budget to decide how much to give

Charities will often make suggestions for individual donations, for example, $20 a month or a one-time offer of $150.

But Scally recommends a more intentional approach: come up with an amount based on your household budget. “Sit down with your family and map out what you can afford to give. You certainly want to take care of yourself and pay your rent and your groceries,” he says.

You can also donate a specific percentage of your annual income to charity, says Scally. Some giving movements like One for the World suggests one percent — big enough to make an impact, small enough not to notice in your budget — while others like Giving What We Can suggests a more generous amount: 10 percent.

If you want to give more, go for it, says Scally. “Some folks I’ve spoken to have given up to 20 percent” of their annual income.

Donate to a mix of charities

“When you support a cause, you may want to give to both a small, local organization and a large, national or international organization,” says Scally. There are benefits to each.

Large global charities, for example, often have more staff, more aid, more resources and more logistical knowledge from experienced humanitarian workers who know how to mobilize on a massive scale during emergencies, said Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University in a 2017 interview with NPR. They also know how to navigate the often complex financial requirements and paperwork needed to obtain millions of dollars in emergency funding.

Smaller, local charity groups also have their strengths. “The people behind local nonprofits often live and work [where] they serve,” says Victoria Vrana, CEO of GlobalGiving, a crowdfunding platform for grassroots charitable projects. For that reason, “they are able to deliver long-term solutions that are tailor-made [to] the needs of their communities.”

Beware of charity scammers

Make sure your money is going to the people who you’re trying to help. “Scams are on the rise,” warns Scally.

According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, natural disasters, for example, can create opportunities for fraud. Scammers pose as representatives of charities seeking donations for disaster relief via phone call, texts, emails, letters and even people going door to door. To protect yourself, the FCC suggests donating to trusted, well-known charities and taking extra steps to verify if a charity is legitimate.

Be wary of any fundraising schemes that seem urgent or predatory,” says Scally. “Anything that feels high pressure or unsolicited is definitely worth taking a second look at.”

And don’t forget: your money isn’t the only way to support causes you care about. “Volunteering is a great way to give back,” he adds. It allows you to create a personal relationship with an organization and its work. “So if you can make that a part of your routine, it’s a beautiful thing to do.”

The audio was produced by Sylvie Douglis. The digital story was written by Clare Marie Schneider and edited by Malaka Gharib. The visual producer is Kaz Fantone.

Want more Life Kit? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and get expert advice on topics like money, relationships, health and more. Click here to subscribe now.

News Related


Dieser Brief macht Freisinger Kinder „fix und fertig“: König Charles meldet sich bei Drittklässlern

Schöne Überraschung Dieser Brief macht Freisinger Kinder „fix und fertig“: König Charles meldet sich bei Drittklässlern Dank für die Glückwünsche: Das königliche Paar schickte ein Einen besonderen Brief verfasste im ... Read more »

How to recreate the 'Friends' moist maker Thanksgiving sandwich

How to recreate the 'Friends' moist maker Thanksgiving sandwich Jessie James Decker shared the Thanksgiving sandwich from her cookbook. ByKelly McCarthy November 24, 2023, 4:01 AM Jessie James Decker has ... Read more »

How to Identify an Authentic Bangladeshi Jamdani Saree?

, Nov. 26 — Jamdani saree, an emblem of Bangladeshi tradition, symbolises cultural richness and artisanal finesse. Distinguishing a real Jamdani from cheaper replicas necessitates keen attention to intricate details ... Read more »

How to watch today's Buffalo Bills vs. Philadelphia Eagles NFL game: Livestream options, kickoff time

Stefon Diggs #14 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the New York Jets at Highmark Stadium on November 19, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York.  / ... Read more »

Fix garbage collection to elevate Jinja's appeal, Babalanda says

The Minister for the Presidency, Milly Babalanda, has advised Jinja city leaders to avoid haphazard developments by strictly enforcing physical planning guidelines, so as to sustain the town’s beauty to ... Read more »

IREDA IPO: GMP remains strong; know listing date, how to check allotment status

The allotment status of IREDA IPO can be checked online through the official website of BSE. While Tata Technologies IPO remained the more popular choice among subscribers this week, the ... Read more »

Govt should continue efforts to retain scholarship holders in research sector: Parliament committee

SINGAPORE – A panel of eight MPs has urged the authorities to do more to keep research scholarship holders in Singapore and contributing to the country’s research sector. It recommended ... Read more »
Top List in the World