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4 things to consider before giving to charity

Deciding how much to give is the easy part; it's choosing a charity that's hard.
By J.D. Roth |


In a New York Times editorial a few years ago, ethicist Peter Singer espoused a progressive approach to giving, much like we see with our income taxes: The more you make, he says, the bigger percentage of your income you should give.


His baseline suggestion? The top 10% of earners should be donating at least 10%.



Whether you adhere to this or make your own rules, deciding how much to give is the easy part—it's choosing a charity that's hard. I have a tough time deciding who should get my help. Each cause makes a compelling argument, yet my resources are limited. So to narrow the options, I've adopted a handful of guidelines.



Make it personal. 

If you know someone with cancer, you might funnel your funds to a cancer society. If you feel strongly about animal welfare, you might contribute to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Keep the cause close to your heart, and you'll be more inclined to donate willingly.



Think local. 

"Charity begins at home," the old saying goes, and that's often a great way to go. You'll be more familiar with local projects, and you can take comfort knowing that your money will stay within your community.



Find help online. 


Check out local sites that list down charitable organizations by a variety of metrics to help you find groups that make the best use of their money.

Once you've found a cause you wish to support, verify that it's legitimate. Check for a mailing address and phone number (seriously).



Donate your time. 

Finally, don't forget about volunteer work. Even if you can't afford—or are unwilling—to give your money to charity, you can certainly help your chosen cause with the gift of your knowledge or labor. In fact, that's the route I tend to take. Although I haven't contributed much cash this year, I have volunteered more than 100 hours in my community. I find that giving hours instead of money is a better way to feel more connected to the causes I support.



Copyright © 2012 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
This article also appeared on Minor edits have been done by the editor.


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