Jim over at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity is holding an American Cancer Society Charity Drive that I was happy to contribute to last month. As many of you might recall, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma a while back. The prognosis on this type and stage of cancer is not good, but all things considered, she’s stable and doing well at the moment while she undergoes a series of radiation therapy treatments. Empathy makes action all the easier, as is apt when it comes to human nature.
You might be tired of hearing reminders that December is a good time to review your charitable donations this year, but here’s one more. It’s timely because of the holiday season, and also, from a practical standpoint, because you might be able to reduce your 2006 income tax burden by making qualifying charitable contributions before the end of the year. (Unless you’re like us and take the standard deduction.) If you’d like, join Jim’s ACS drive (he’s keeping a log on donations to date). If not, why not consider giving to the causes interest and move you?
Personally, I’d lump the donations we’ve given this year into three categories: donations as part of friends’ marathons, bike relays, and wedding gifts to various health-related charities; donations to microfinance organizations (like the Grameen Foundation); and one-time, larger donations outright to organizations we believe in. What I’ll say is that our donations tend to be opportunistic rather than planned and driven, and that’s something we need to improve upon.
If you’re worried about whether your donations are being used efficiently, a good site to check is Charity Navigator, which I found out about only recently. ACS unfortunately doesn’t rank as highly as I wished it did. The other charitable organizations throughout this site in posts and on sidebars are all ones I support, have contributed to, or intend to, shortly, and rank 3+ stars on the site.
Before the end of the year, I’m anticipating making two more donations. One will be to Michigan’s Ross School of Business’s annual drive. I received a small scholarship to attend the MBA program there, and it seems only right to give it back over time so future students can benefit.
I’ll also be donating to Women for Women International, an organization focused on helping women in war-torn countries. I found and became interested in the organization after reading about some of the atrocities happening in the Congo and other parts of Africa. (Here’s a link to a story that ran in Newsweek, but I have to warn you that it’s extremely violent and disturbing.) I may also donate directly to one of the hospitals mentioned in the article.
What’s unique about Women for Women International, though, is that they offer a program where you sponsor a woman in another country and actually correspond with her, in addition to just donating money. (That’s assuming the sponsored woman is willing, of course. Some of these women have gone through truly terrible experiences, so it’d be perfectly understandable if they aren’t comfortable with writing to a stranger.) That way, you offer the possibility of not only giving monetary but some emotional encouragement as well, and the organization supplies the translators who translate the letters back and forth between English and the local language.
Well, I hope this post hasn’t come across as sounding condescending or lecturish. It’s only meant to stimulate ideas and to share some of my interests. If you have some of yours you’d like to share, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!