The holiday season is here, and many people like to give back during this time of year. With nearly 1 million public charities registered in the U.S. alone, it’s easy to see that the need for philanthropy is great. But where do you begin?
Websites like Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar are great places to start. Each offers searchable databases and tips for giving, making it easier to find an organization that you feel comfortable supporting.
If you prefer not to seek out individual charities on your own, you can find ways to give through your employer, your school, community groups, or religious organizations.
CDPHP®, for example, selects an annual charity of choice and provides opportunities for employees to participate in various fundraising events throughout the year, with the proceeds going directly to the charity. This year’s charity is the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York.
You don’t always have to give to a national or international cause. In fact, numerous locally based nonprofits need help all year long, and your dollars go directly to the programs and services in your community. If you prefer giving to a larger, nationally based organization, many have chapters that serve the local community.
Sometimes, the giving can be one-on-one. For the holidays, you can “adopt” a family in need and provide them with living essentials and holiday gifts.
Remember, too, that giving goes beyond monetary donations. Your time is just as valuable. Volunteer to cook or serve a meal, donate blood, hold a food drive, mentor children, attend a fundraising party or concert, organize a “celebrity” sports game, create care packages for deployed military members, donate a vehicle, or build a house.
The key is picking a cause you’re passionate about. Love animals? Collect food, toys, and bedding for a local shelter. Can you knit? Make blankets, hats, and scarves for the homeless. The possibilities are endless.
While many reputable organizations are out there, unfortunately, numerous scams are as well. Luckily, you can protect yourself by being proactive.
Give Wise by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a comprehensive website that is chock-full of resources for donors. You can research thousands of charities and view BBB reports on each. The Federal Trade Commission website also offers advice on how to spot charity scams and lists up-to-date scam alerts to keep you in the know.
Of course, giving is great for the recipients, but did you know that being charitable is also good for your health? As the Cleveland Clinic notes, studies have shown that giving can boost your physical and mental health.
Some benefits associated with helping others include:
Even though #GivingTuesday is designated as a day of awareness, the need is always present. Make it more than just a hashtag – spread your kindness around all year long.
In the photo: CDPHP employees contributed their time and talents to building the “CDPHP House” for Habitat for Humanity, one of the 2013 charities of choice.