When we made our first donation (and we mean independently scraped together some cash, rather than being passed coins from mum’s purse), it felt like we had truly become adults. To give-up a share of your weekend job’s earnings is an empowering feeling. but being cash-poor students, it was really important to us that our small gift was being used properly.

We knew some charities have massive overheads and we didn’t want our donation to be swallowed up by glitzy marketing or buying private jet travel for the director. There’s so many charities all competing for your donation, how does any time-strapped person pick one?

Here’s some key points to look at when choosing:

1. Efficient: Have a look at the percentage of your donation that’ll get to the project. Overheads for running an organisation range from 1% to 30%. Generally, anything much above 15% and the business may have efficiency issues. Overheads are the office space, vehicles, staff, bank charges and marketing etc.

2. Create a legacy: Some charitable organisations provide help by shipping in staff and providing aid. For emergencies that might be necessary, but how much better is it to provide training to local people so that they can develop sustainable programs based on local knowledge as well as creating jobs well ito the future.

3. A perfect match: We all have particular passions – will the charity of your choice allow you to donate to a specific project that you feel strongly about, or will the cash go to a general slush fund? Many will appeal to you based on a trend or emotive topic, but the money raised will go to many diverse projects. There’s nothing wrong with this, just make sure it suits you. This is why we like Global Giving – it allows us to choose from 100’s of projects…and don’t forget local projects in your own country need assistance too.

4. Dodgy? Donating through a registered charity will reduce the risk, but we come across some projects that say one thing, but kind-of take a few liberties. ie ‘educating rural Pakistani girls’, but actually funding a snazzy library in a private school. Technically correct…but sort of not! Read the small print and don’t hold back asking questions of the organisation. Look for accountability also, will they email updates to you on the project.

5. Annoying: How frustrating is it to donate $5, then receive more marketing materials than flew out of Harry Potter’s chimney. Nothing worse than knowing you’ve just funded some begging letters – give them some feedback!


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