Doing Good: Our Guide to Giving Back
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Big Time Givers
According to the Hawaii Community Foundation 2009 Giving Study, all types of Hawaii residents participate in charitable giving, from college students to single parents to high-profile executives to retirees. The only difference is the amount given. Here’s who gives the highest average contributions:
- Oahu residents
- Two-person households
- Those who have lived in Hawaii for 20 years or more (but who weren’t, oddly enough, born and raised here)
- Older residents
Do Your Homework
You work hard for your money. When you write a check or hand over a $20 bill, you want to make sure it is actually making a difference. Before you make a donation, it’s worth the time and effort to look into the nonprofit first. Thanks to the Internet, it’s pretty easy.
The HCF directs potential donors’ inquiries to websites such as guidestar.com or charitynavigator.org, both of which have online nonprofit information and databases, including a nonprofit’s 990 tax forms (which, because the organization is a nonprofit, excludes income tax), information about its board and executive director, its programs, goals, accomplishments and more. Both are great online resources in vetting a nonprofit’s legitimacy and worthiness, but Taketa cautions against deciding whether to donate to a nonprofit based solely upon its IRS information.
“Everyone thinks that being a savvy donor means funding organizations that have low overhead,” he says. “So if they give a dollar, how much of it is going to feeding the hungry versus paying for staff. If you only rely on things like overhead metrics, you’re going to miss funding some of the most successful organizations, because it’s only one indicator of how good an organization is.”
For example, if a nonprofit has been particularly successful within the past year, chances are its staff is looking to expand, which means if a potential donor looks over its tax forms, she or he will notice that the nonprofit incurred high fundraising expenses because of its capital campaign. “You’ve got to look at the whole picture, you can’t just look at numbers,” he says.
To do this, ask friends, relatives or co-workers if they are familiar with the organization—or know someone who is—to get first-hand knowledge of how the nonprofit operates and its interaction with the community. Or, go volunteer yourself. “Volunteering is a wonderful way to learn what’s really going on with an organization,” says Taketa.
Where To Give
Even if money feels tight these days, many of us have more stuff than we know what to do with—stuff that could make a difference to someone who can’t afford a meal or a shirt. Next time you have extra cans in your pantry, want to clean out your closet or replace your old fridge, these organizations below—and others like them, including churches—could use these goods to help those in need.