Ask the Readers: How Do You Give to Charity?

By Ashley Jacobs on 15 March 2011 (Updated 22 March 2011) 40 comments
Photo: Eversheds LLC

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Lynda, @E_Stimpert, and Kandace Coupons for winning this week's contest!

With the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, charity and giving is on the forefront of everyone's minds. When tragedy strikes, it is important for people to come together and help those in need. However, sometimes people can't afford to donate money and give in other ways instead.

How do you donate to charity?  Do you donate money or time? Do you have a certain charity you like to give to? Will you donate to help the victims in Japan?

Tell us how you donate to charity and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

Enter 1 of 3 Ways:

  • Post your answer in the comments below, or
  • Go to our Facebook page, "Like" us, then "Like" the update mentioning this giveaway (you can comment, as well — but you don't have to for entry), or
  • Tweet your answer. You have to be a follower of our @wisebread account. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, March 14th at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after March 14th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email, Facebook, and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
  • You must be 18 and US resident to enter. Void where prohibited.

Good Luck!

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Guest's picture
gpotter

My employer sponsors various charitable activities during the year, such as a chili cook-off to benefit a children's hospital, a leukemia walk, and a basketball bracket challenge. Personally, I also support my local PBS station with an annual donation.

Guest's picture
Christie Struck

There are so many ways. I give first to my church, which gives those in need in the local community help through a food pantry and financial assistance. My daughter has had birthday parties where they didn't bring gifts for her, they brought new books for a local women and children's shelter. We also give to the Red Cross in times of need like Katrina and Haiti and now Japan. The Red Cross knows what is needed, they already have the work started, and I feel that my donations will be best used by them to help the people in the crisis.

Guest's picture
Shadoglare

It would be impossible to give to every charity that could use the help, so what I decided I needed to do was pick a cause that was the highest priority for me personally. I don't have a lot of extra cash to throw around, but still wanted to donate, so rather than making a single big donation I set up an automatic monthly donation of a small amount - each donation isn't much, but it adds up.
My personal choice was to donate to the V Foundation for Cancer Research (www.jimmyv.org). 100% of personal donations go directly to research, not to some administrator's pocket. They score highly at Charity Navigator and a friend of mine actually knows someone at a lab that received a grant from them, so I know they're legit.
You can set up the option to either donate once or donate monthly, and I sent a small donation to them automatically each month.

Guest's picture
gt0163c

I regularly give time and money to causes I believe in. Most of those are religious organizations. On a monthly basis I support individuals and a few organizations doing work I believe in (pastoring on college campuses, church planting, Bible translation, faith based community development, etc). Many of the individuals I support are friends who have gone into this sort of work. So I have a personal connection and get to hear about what's going on with them and the work I support on a regular basis. And I give to my church, which provides ongoing as well as one-time as needed support for other missionaries and mercy projects.

I'm also involved in my church's "disaster response" ministry. We help out, providing physical and some skilled labor, where we can, in the wake of disasters. I've done clean-up after floods, wildfires and other natural disasters both locally and out-of-state. Last summer I was part of a team which ran a weeklong summer camp program for street children in Mexico in partnership with the long-term ministry to these kids. We'll do that again this summer. It's a hard week but ultimately a very rewarding one.

Because of my ongoing involvement in these types of ministries, I don't generally give in the wake of disasters. But, when I do, I prefer to give to established organizations (usually Red Cross) which I know have the experience and the infrastructure to make a real difference in a way that helps without hurting. I know that the overhead costs are sometimes greater with these larger organizations, but I feel more confident that the organization will be able to assess and meet the needs of the people who need the help, rather than just throwing supplies or money at the problem hoping that it's used well.

Guest's picture
Brian

I give in several ways. My largest giving throughout the year goes to my church. It helps support the pastor and I trust them to distribute the rest to my community.

I also choose organizations or individuals that I feel are providing real help or value. Like publicly supported radio stations that I listen to, or the local homeless shelter.

When giving, I think it is very important to include my time as a donation. Sometimes all the money in the world won't help a problem, but one more set of hands will.

Guest's picture
Emily

There are so many worthy causes, but I don't make a lot of money so I volunteer my time and participate in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. It's a 200-mile bike-a-thon across the state and all proceeds go to cancer research and treatment at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. As a ride I commit to raising $4,200 each year through events, a personal appeal to family/friends and personal contributions. Not only is it a really fun event, but the money I raise goes towards a cause I really care about.

Guest's picture
Joel

I give cash primarily, and try to keep it basically to systematic monthly giving. Unfortunately, disasters aren't very good at distributing themselves evenly across months--I'll need to think about how to factor disaster giving into the plan.

Guest's picture
Heather

We had the same problem. We budgeted a monthly amount but then something would come up that we would want to support and we'd either have to reduce support for our regular charities or blow our budget. This year when we were reviewing our budget, we added a small monthly amount of what we called "discretionary" charity money. If we don't use it one month, it rolls over for future donation.

Guest's picture
Luke

I always thought it was best to donate cash value over food drops.
A non profit always gets a better deal when dealing with getting food and other products because they dont have to pay sales tax... Also many Non profits have access to buying in bulk, where they can get 3-5 cans of corn to the one can you donated.
I've also donated time for some charities but it always seems like whoever is organizing is clueless on how to run it.

Guest's picture
Dana V.

I donate to charity by paying taxes. If I didn't have so much of my money stolen from me by the government, I would take that money and donate it to the charity of my choice.

Guest's picture
Rob

My wife and I tend to donate money more than time, although I'm hoping to find time to work with Habitat for Humanity sometime in the near future. The hard part with Habitat is that you typically have to schedule months in advance in my area if you want one of their weekend slots.

Aside from tithing to our church, we also support 4 children (3 through World Vision and 1 through a small program through our old church). Last year, we also gave a healthy sum to a local pregnancy counseling center and smaller various other local charities. And we tend to take at least one load to Goodwill or Salvation Army each year (which is also a good way of keeping down the clutter).

Guest's picture
Cheryl Curtis

With the crisis in Japan since I can't help physicially, I will donate money. I usually go to www.charitynavigator.org to determine which charity is most fiscally responsible and where the majority of my money will go directly to the people/cause needing the help and less to overhead.

Guest's picture
Lauren

I donate to my church, I donate a lot of clothing/shoes regularly to food clothing drop boxes, and I signed up for SwipeGood!

Guest's picture
kristy ot

We have a certain amount of our budget dedicated to monthly donations to a couple of charities we really like; it's auto-drafted from our account by the charities in question. Easy!

Guest's picture
Kristin

I give money and goods to about a half dozen charities including church, United Way, PBS, and the local food bank. I consider giving to be an important component of my budget.

One major unexpected perk of giving to my employer's United Way fund-raiser this past year was that I won a Barnes and Noble Nook, which led to my first date with the man I'll be marrying this May.

Guest's picture
Alex

I donate to higher education directly from my paycheck.

I also donate time through the National Ski Patrol.

Guest's picture
Maria S

I donate a lot of clothes and I volunteer once a week.

Guest's picture
Nicholas

I don't donate money as I don't have a lot of it at any point but I do help people with PC problems. I also give my old clothes and various smaller items that I do not need to different charities that can use them or sell them. I am not going to donate to the crisis in Japan but would love to go over there and help, I just don't have the money for either. So for now I will have to just pray for everyone over there.

Guest's picture
Guest

We set aside 10% of our pretax income for charitable giving. My husband gives with every paycheck while I make larger gifts throughout the year to causes important to me.

I emphasize organizations that do great work but don't have lots of resources for fundraising campaigns. I sometimes give to major disaster relief but often I'll direct my giving to organizations that may be neglected during the attention to a big event.

I've worked for nonprofits my entire adult life so I know first hand how much good work is being done on a shoestring.

Guest's picture
Jordan

I started using Philanthroper, which allows me to give just $1/day to whatever charities I feel are worthy. This spreads out the pain (one big donation may make me think twice) and keeps me thinking about causes (one big donation may make me think I've done my part, who cares). So I like it.

Guest's picture
Debbie M

I also cannot give to all the worthy causes, so I try to pick the most important causes (for me: reducing/fixing environmental destruction and reducing extreme poverty, torture, abuse, and pain).

Then I try to pick methods that are solutions rather than band-aids and that work well (though these can be very hard to measure). So I'd rather help people who know what they're doing to take care of fragile land than to educate the public. I'd rather use microloans to help people become self-sufficient than to donate food.

I donate through justgive.org--they let you do it anonymously so that the organizations do not waste a lot of money bothering me with loads of printed material. They do charge a fee for being the middleman, but it's probably much less than what the organizations would pay for all that junk mail (not to mention all the other organizations I'd end up on mailing lists for), and it's much, much less than the percentage my employer takes.

Unfortunately, the things I think are most important are not the things I am good at dealing with. I do not want to hang around abused, starving people. So I donate time at things I'm good at and enjoy such as tutoring and teaching first aid classes.

In addition I do give a small amount back to places that help or have helped me such as public TV/radio, my neighborhood association, the local wildflower center, and providers of freeware (and I'm thinking of adding my alma maters). And I'm starting to also give a small amount to less important causes that are of interest to me (such as improving bicycling in my town).

Guest's picture
KelR1

I donate to animal charities whenever possible. I round up or throw my change into the donation box at the checkout at Petco and Petsmart. I donate bags of dog food and old towels to the Humane Society (where I adopted my wonderful dog). I also click on the donate button at www.theanimalrescuesite.com every day and answer the daily trivia questions at www.freekibble.com. Both are great FREE ways to give! Every year my husband, our dog, and I do the Humane Society Walk for Animals as well. Last year we collected over $700 in pledges and hope to top that this year!

Guest's picture
M

My husband and I have in the past few years started a new tradition: Giving Week. During the first week in August, we choose a focus for each day (say, clean water or child hunger) and make a donation one or more corresponding charities. As our preschooler gets older, we will be able to volunteer together; I'm really looking forward to that.
Before, it seemed like we made donations almost at random in response to a solicitation or an impulse, without a designated budget or coherent plan. Now I feel better about giving more deliberately.
Later this week, though, since my bento blog will be a year old (!) I will make donations to food-related organizations in honor of my subscribers. :)

Guest's picture
Ken

Giving Blood doesn't cost anything and it WILL save a life some where in the world.
No excuses.
http://www.redcross.org/donate/give/
https://www.bloodhero.com/

You can still give your money to some other Org, but you can give life to someone through a simple donation of blood. Some day you too might need some blood to save your life.
No excuses.

Guest's picture
Fidyyuan

I've donated money to the red cross to help out Japan. What I really like donating to is the "Child's Play" fund for Christmas time.

Guest's picture
terrellterp

Locally, I'm able to use coupons to get items practically free and I give those items to my church, shelters, and family in need. I give to the Red Cross when there is a natural disaster as it is in Japan at this time.

Guest's picture
Therese

We enter 5K races, give time when we can and give whenever we see someone collecting.

Guest's picture
Lynda

i havn't donated to help japan victims but i will probably through red cross. i also donate a lot of gently used goods to goodwill or veterans of america.

Guest's picture
Eric

I mostly donate through the Internet, though I don't do it often enough. I have also given away books to the library or clothes to Goodwill.

Guest's picture
Kandace

We give money throughout the year, but we also round up things for Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity's ReStore. We also drop things in the food bank bin at the grocery from time to time. Each year around Christmas, we choose a charity and donate something tangible to be given to people who need it most, last year we gave $100 in diapers.

Guest's picture
Meggerz

Other than tenners to solicitors and a few afternoons' work, I have never been very charitable. I suppose I was raised that way. Today, however, I am finally in a position to make a more meaningful contribution, so I donated to the American Red Cross.

Feels good, maybe I'll do it again sometime.

Guest's picture
Emily

My church does tons of charity events, and through them, I donate both time and money. I've found time to be the most valuable because charity events take a good deal of planning and effort, and it's much harder to take 5 hours out of your life to help than just dropping a few twenties in the collection box.

Guest's picture

I promote the idea of charity platforms. Pick a cause or issue, and do what you can to advocate, promote, volunteer and donate to projects that fit within that theme.

Since my core audience are families who are on tight budgets, this gives a "here's what you can do" spin. But I actually adapted the idea from the pageant system and what I've seen in the business sponsorship / charity efforts.

This is an older post where I talked about it in response to some other issues, but it explains the concept: http://www.blogsmonroe.com/budget/2010/09/charity-platforms-pick-yours-a...

When I talked about the Japan relief efforts, referring to the charity platform concept, here's what I wrote:

"You might wish to support the disaster relief efforts. But you might also wish later to support a project that your business contacts are involved in, a school rebuild, an environmental campaign, disaster preparedness here in the U.S., medical research, geological / earthquake research, one of the Michigan sister city programs, or a project that celebrates Japanese culture and arts."

Guest's picture
Charline Williams

I donate to charity by giving gentle used clothing.

Guest's picture
Tammy C

My family gives through our church. We have a wonderful church staff and we know they will research well before handing out any monies.

Guest's picture
Guest

Every time we clean out our house, most of it ends up going to Goodwill. In addition, I do most of my clothes shopping at thrift stores. My whole family does this and sometimes we even find our own clothes on the rack.

Guest's picture
kristina wittchen

We donate clothing and other household items to a local charity.

Guest's picture
Kate

I have a (growing) list of charities that I donate to once a year. At that point I look at the list and decide which ones to add (maybe a new group I got involved with over the last year) and if there are any that I no longer feel align with my values.

I don't give to other causes throughout the year unless solicited by a friend. I have some amount set aside each year to support friends (and their charities) when asked.

I also have done extensive work (both paid and volunteering) for local nonprofits.

Guest's picture
Carson M.

Tithing at my church is always my #1 priority. Often times when disaster strikes or some profound emergency arises, the church I attend will employ certain members of the congregation to perform certain acts of generosity or start specific charities and I can specifically request a portion of my "tenth" to go to that cause. And they often coordinate their efforts with The Red Cross or other reputable organizations, so that makes it more manageable for me.

Guest's picture
Betty

We give to the church's food pantry, and also participate in Stamp Out Hunger. Leavea bag of groceries by your mailbox on the specific day, and your mail carrier takes it. Easy peasy. We donate gifts to a children's home around the holidays. Cash donations to a children's hospital. When my daughter was younger, we worked many charity events in the community, but not so much any more.