By Christopher Schonberger
Generation-Y clearly has a social conscience. One must only log onto Facebook and look at all the groups about Darfur and bringing back Arrested Development to see that. The problem is that starting salaries don't stretch too far beyond the essentials, and many of us end up limiting our charitable endeavors to benefits/fundraisers that our friends are involved with. There’s nothing wrong with that, and at least there’s usually an open bar involved. But just because you’re not Bill Gates doesn’t mean you can’t make an impact. In this guide, we’ll discuss ways to find charities that interest you and ensure that your money—and time—is well spent.
Finding the Right Charity Fit
There are three major steps required in finding a charity: 1) choosing a cause that appeals to you, 2) finding the organizations that do the best work for that cause, and 3) figuring out whether that charity has a role that suits your needs. Usually, people stop at the first step and just go with the most ubiquitous name they come across. But it's important to realize that charities, just like companies, are often inefficient or ineffective, and they have different needs depending on their size and fundraising status.
So what are some ways to get involved? Giving a donation is costly but takes almost no time from you. Volunteering can be very time-consuming but doesn't cost anything. Finally, joining the youth council of a charitable organization may cost money and require a moderate time commitment. You're ultimate goal should be to find the charity that can make the best use of whatever it is you have to offer, whether that's money, time, organizing skills, graphic design help, etc. This approach may take a bit longer than just mailing in a check, but at least you'll know that you're maximizing your impact. Depending on how you’re scoring, any karma points that you get from just “being generous” won’t reach their full potential if the money and time’s not being put to good use!
Vetting Charitable Organizations
So how do you know if a charity does good work? Start out by checking out Charity Navigator , a website that rates and evaluates charities. Use it to get a read on a charity that interests you, or to find other charities that do work (maybe better work) in the same area. Also, conduct your own research and find out if there are any local organizations doing work in the field.
Once you've found "the one," you can either just make a donation (of any amount you feel comfortable with) or get in touch with them to learn more about the organization and ways you can help.
Charity on the Cheap: Giving Time and Other People’s Money
When you’re only pocketing $100 a month after rent, student debt repayments, and bills, you’d be forgiven for wanting to save a little for your own future. Needless to say, complete selflessness in your twenties is not the best retirement plan. But that doesn't mean you have t...