Giving: I want my money to count

I recently attended a fundraising event. Donation amounts were supposed to be confidential; however, it didn’t take much to figure out that I gave far less than the other attendees. When I got home that night, I gave the situation some serious thought. Was I cheap? Uncaring? Ultimately, I determined that it is not that I don’t give enough, but that I don’t give with purpose.

In the past six months, I have leaked money to at least 15 charitable causes. In addition to making several monetary donations, I have sponsored runners and walkers; sold cookies; subscribed to magazines; bought peaches, apples, oranges and wrapping paper; donated supplies; made food; dialed telethons; bid in auctions; and handed out change.

It’s not that one-off contributions are not important, but I wondered if my money couldn’t be put to better use. As it turns out, answer is “yes.” According to a study by Charity Navigator, special events are an extremely inefficient way for charities to raise contributions. And according to SmartMoney.com, it is smart to give a larger sum to one charity instead of splitting the money—it can mean the difference between making a contribution and fully funding a project.

My goal for 2009 is to identify one or two causes that are important to my family and concentrate my giving (although this means that I will have to learn the meaning of the word “no”). With more than half a million federally recognized charities soliciting contributions, selecting a charity may be easier said than done. Fortunately, there are many organizations like Charity Navigator to help.

Apparently, thoughtful giving is more important than ever. A survey released last week by Grizzard Communications Group found that only 13 percent of respondents expect to increase their giving for the remainder of 2008, while nearly a third admitted that they plan to decrease their giving.

Not to open a can of worms, but I also hope to apply this approach to my gifts of time -- I seem to be leaking that all over the place too.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.

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