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Charitable giving

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Giving to a charity is a relatively simple act that can help to improve the lives of those in need and address problems that affect all of us. And these days, it seems that more people and organizations need genuine financial help to continue good deeds. Whether donating your money or your time, the charity you choose is an opportunity for your contribution to promote a cause or organization that reflects your values and is working in ways you believe can make a difference.

The choice is yours

If you’re not sure where or how you want to give, ask yourself some basic questions:

What issues or causes are important to you? Hunger, child welfare, the environment, human rights, animal welfare?

How can you have the greatest impact? Would a cash donation or volunteering my time do the most good?

Where would you like to make an impact? Your community, the nation, overseas?

Would a larger or smaller organization make better use of your support?

Get on the right track 

Once you’ve determined the type of charity you would like to contribute to and where you would like your donation to be focused, there are a number of web sites that track and evaluate charities. At Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org), donors can search by category or review their database of over 5,000 charitable organizations. The site even has a number of “Top Ten” lists ranging from the highest-rated organizations with the lowest paid CEOs to the 10 in the most financial trouble.

Another source for charity information is the Better Business Bureau’s “Wise Giving Alliance” (www.bbb.org/us/charity), which evaluates and provides detailed reports on charities, including a large number of smaller, lesser-known philanthropic groups, and can help to determine which charities would be the best fit for you.

It always helps to ask

Once you have identified some charitable organizations that interest you, contact the organization to request information, such as a brochure or a copy of its most recent annual report. A legitimate charity will always be happy to provide you with whatever you need to make an informed choice. If you have any particular concerns about a charity or its legitimacy, you can contact the National Association of State Charity Officials (www.nasconet.org), an association of state offices that oversees charitable organizations and charitable solicitation throughout the U.S.

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