The holidays are a time for giving to loved ones, friends, and often to charity. But with so many people dealing with the impact of COVID-19, giving might be even more important this year. Before you open your wallet, you might want to follow Consumer Reports’ advice to maximize your contribution to help your community.
Charities differ a lot in how much of the money they raise goes for programs instead of covering their expenses. Effective charities devote much more of their operating budget to the services they provide than to their other expenditures, like salaries and marketing. You can find charities that meet those benchmarks on Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
Also be sure to check the charity’s own website for information about its mission, a list of the board of directors, and its latest financial reports. If the website doesn’t list its financial details online, the organization isn’t very transparent, which could be a red flag.
And watch out for fees! Online giving platforms and crowdfunding websites are popular, but they often charge payment-processing fees—sometimes 3 percent or more—and that money isn’t going to charity. Instead, consider giving the old-fashioned way, with cash or a check.
Also, many families are experiencing food insecurity. A recent CR survey found that 1 in 5 American shoppers has turned to a food bank since the start of the pandemic. If you’re considering giving to a food bank, Consumer Reports says to prioritize cash over cans. They welcome most donated food, but monetary donations may have a bigger impact because food banks can buy food wholesale and in bulk.
And don’t worry if you don’t have extra money to give this holiday season. Consider donating your time. You can look for volunteer opportunities in your area by going online to Volunteer-Match or Idealist-dot-org.