The Giving Season: Finding a Charity to Support

Star in the EastEvery year, I have more and more trouble coming up with a Christmas list of things I want. Let’s face it: I already have been blessed with far more than I could ever need. So every year, I tell those around me to give some money to a worthy charity in my name. But I’ve started to realize that shopping for a worthy charity can be almost as time-consuming as (gulp) heading to the mall. Unless a person has a collection of charities he or she already supports, it can be fairly intimidating to find a charitable organization that feels trustworthy.

The obvious answer is to look on the Internet for a charity database. But even here, there be dragons. One site I uncovered has very good information about a charity’s funding allocation — but you have to have the charity’s name first. Another site that purported to be a charity database was woefully incomplete; I searched for some well-known and more obscure charities and only a handful came up in their database listing. But then I found Charity Navigator, the recipient of today’s WordHappy writing award. This is my gold standard of website home pages: its design is chock-full of helpful, organized links without seeming too cluttered, and I was able to determine within seconds that I could find any information I wanted about a charity. It even offers a 2007 Holiday Giving Guide.

I chose Grameen Foundation USA, an organization that fights global poverty through microfinancing, as a test subject. Charity Navigator provided an organization and efficiency rating; a recent income statement; the name and salary of its leader; and the organization’s mission. Charity Navigator even included a sidebar link that would allow me to donate to that particular charity immediately. But wait, there’s more. The charity’s page also includes a listing of charities performing similar types of work. In five minutes time, I felt like I could competently donate and feel like my money would be well-utilized.

So a hearty thank you and a merry Christmas to Charity Navigator, the best written and most well-organized of any of the charity databases I uncovered. And to everyone else, have a very blessed holiday and if the spirit so moves you, blessings to you for the gifts you bring to others.

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