Lately, your heart has been pricked to give someone some help. You’re not sure where to start, but you’re thinking that maybe a donation of time or money to a charity might be the right fit.
But there’s about a million so-called charities out there, and you can’t be sure which ones are worthwhile.
We’ve compiled tips and information on charities and giving in general, along with information on one of our favorite charities that helps supports our troops:
The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.
How to Tell a Good Charity from a Bad Charity
With so many scams and poorly run charities out there, it’s hard to know where to give charitable donations.
You might know the type of charity you’d like to give to, but you’re not sure which ones are actually charities, and which ones are money schemes for padding bank accounts for CEOs and other executives.
Because of these issues, there are groups, called charity watchdogs, that help people like us navigate the system, and find out which charities are actually worthwhile. Some of these groups include:
- Charity Navigator
- BBB Wise Giving Alliance
- IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check
- Charity Watch
How to Use a Charity Watchdog Site
A charity watchdog is a group that navigates the facts and fiction to uncover the truth behind a nonprofit’s allocation of funds, any scandals associated with the use of funds, and who actually benefits from the programs offered by a group.
For our purposes, we’ll talk through using Charity Navigator, one of the easiest sites to navigate.
1. Visit Charity Navigator
Once you’ve found a few names of charities you’d like to consider, you should go to Charity Navigator, and either set up an account, or use the free public search engine on the site.
2. Look for the Charity Navigator Rating or Any Warnings
There are a few different types of informational things you’ll notice as you look for a given charity. For instance, a charity that is solidly rated will have stars and percentages given, while a shadier organization will have a red banner at the top of the page with an advisory alert, “High concern.” The third main option you’ll run across is a statement about a given charity having no rating because it is not required by the IRS to submit 990 forms.
3. Understand the Ratings
If you see a red alert advisory note, like the red banner at the top of the Donald J Trump Foundation page, you probably don’t want to donate to that cause. Otherwise, look for the ratings, and review the information on these main issues.
- Fundraising efficiency — How well do they use their budget in this regard?
- Administrative Costs and/or Overhead — What do they spend to keep the organization running, and how much do they pay their executives?
- Program costs — How much of the money actually goes to the service, programs, and supplies they are raising the funds for?
What’s a Good Charity that Helps Our Troops?
Not every group that bears the navy logo is a legitimate charitable group. So, we’ll take a look at one group that we know does it right: the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society.
The Navy Marine Relief Society assists naval and marine corps personnel, their families, and veterans. They offer loans, financial assistance and counseling, budgeting workshops for naval families expecting babies, emergency travel assistance, disaster relief, education assistance, health education, and post-combat support.
How Can You Help Sailors and Marines?
A few quick ways you can help the troops include:
- Write to a marine. — Not sure how? Look up the Camp Pendleton address and send a general inquiry on marines and naval personnel who you could write letters or emails to.
- Visit the Marine Shop. — If you’ve served in the Marines at some point, you might want to visit the Marine Shop and check out merchandise. You can help support your troops through your purchases.
- Donate your time, money, or supplies. — You can always donate your time, money, and supplies to this great cause through a variety of ways. Check out the website of your favorite charity, or do something like the Marine Surplus store in Oceanside in giving dress blues to the family of a fallen marine.
Support the Troops
Remember, before you give any financial gifts, goods, or services to a charity, check them out on a site like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch. Check out how much of the donations go to the programs and services of a group, and then decide from there.
Or, better yet, donate your time and assist with groups like the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society in various programs that help military personnel and their families navigate through the difficulties of military service and life after combat.