This column first appeared
in the Syracuse Post Standard
December 6, 2011
It’s that time of year again. The holidays, of course. But also the end of the tax year, when charities, including groups like cancer societies or hospital foundations, are pleading for donations.
Each year in December my husband and I make contributions to the charities we think are important, many of which are health-related. Last year money was tight, and we knew we would either have to cut back on how much we donated, or leave some organizations off our list.
To help us make those difficult decisions, I did some background research on each of the charities we ordinarily support. I was surprised at what I found! And learned some tips to share with you, too.
First, I learned that when children need specialized cancer treatment, they will get the same treatment whether they live in Paris, Tokyo, Sydney – or Syracuse. Pediatric oncologists worldwide share their research and successes to the benefit of children everywhere.
I had to ask myself – why would we send a contribution to a children’s hospital out of state? Since children receive the same specialized treatments, doesn’t it make more sense to donate in our own backyards? I’m sure those famous children’s hospitals provide excellent care. But if my child was sick, and I had to stay with her in a city far away, how would I get to work? Where would I stay? Bottom line – we decided to donate to our local children’s hospital, knowing local kids would get the great care they need.
Next up – family interests. Within my husband’s family or mine, we have loved ones who have dealt with Alzheimer’s, diabetes, lymphoma and breast cancer. We have always donated to those very large, national charitable foundations, thinking our money was going toward education, research, and of course, a cure.
Not so fast! It turns out that not all charitable foundations are equal – including those we’ve sent money to each year. I discovered that some charities are actually quite questionable. For example, too much of their money goes toward “undetermined” administrative costs. Or worse, only a small percentage of their budget goes toward their stated goals of education, patient support or research. One very well known charity is spending the bulk of its donations on legal fees, suing smaller charities!
Based on that information, we decided against supporting two of the organizations we’ve sent money to for years.
As a result of this process, I realized that if more of us were choosier about our donations, health-related or not, the most effective and efficient organizations would have more funds to really make progress with their missions – a benefit for everyone.
You may want to review your charity choices, too, to be sure your donations have the best chance of accomplishing the goals you think are important.
Here are some additional resources for
choosing the best charities for your donor dollars:
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