We've all heard horror stories about someone who donated to a charity, only to discover later that the supposed organization doesn't even exist, or that the directors take 95% of every donation in administration fees. For this reason, it's important to be discerning in choosing to whom, or to which organization, you give away your hard-earned money.
Personally, I have three criteria which I use to decide whether or not to donate to a particular cause.
( A ). The request must to made to me personally, and I must feel comfortable about contributing to the cause. A child comes to the door selling Girl Guide cookies: good cookies, good cause, no problem.
A friend passes away and the family requests a donation to the Heart Fund in lieu of flowers. This again is a logical request and a worthwhile cause. I am glad to contribute.
When a bedraggled stranger approaches me on the street and asks for money for a cup of coffee, the red flags appear. If I donate, will the money end up in a coffee shop or in the neighbourhood bar? I can't be sure. Usually, I lower my head and walk quickly away. It may be uncharitable, but at least I'll not be contributing to a fellow human's slide into oblivion.
( B ). The organization is one with which I've been personally involved. I've learned through experience that they perform good work and offer help without discrimination wherever it's needed.
Several years ago a family member was missing. Someone advised me to contact the Salvation Army because they had proven to be very helpful in a similar situation. I did so, and was very gratified by the response.
Although I do not belong to the same faith, the representatives offered hope and encouragement and initiated a search in every one of the cities and facilities where they maintain a presence. They didn't give up easily, but called several times during the following months to see if there had been any news of the missing one.
This group practices the Christianity they preach. I'm always glad to contribute to the funding of their charitable endeavours.
( C ). I support my Church and causes it promotes. Our parish has a weekly envelope to look after the buildings, their upkeep, and pay utility bills. It also pays the priests' salaries which are quite modest, and those of the secretary and caretaker.. Since I belong to that faith community and participate in several organizations there, I believe I should pay my fair share.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society is active in the parish. Members hand out groceries to refugees and the poor, operate a soup kitchen and a home for unwed mothers in the area.
We also have an "Out of the Cold" program from November to March each year. One night each week, the poor and/or homeless are given a nourishing supper and offered a bed in one of the church's meeting rooms. They are also provided with breakfast the next morning. Different churches in the city hold the program each night so no one ever needs to sleep outside during the frigid winter months.
We also have a chapter of "Development and Peace" which works for the benefit of Third World countries. The Canadian Government matches our contributions to this charity, so the good it accomplishes can be quite significant.
Each summer a missionary, usually a priest or a nun, comes to the parish to speak about conditions in their particular country, its most urgent needs and its accomplishments to date. Donation envelopes are distributed and returned the following Sunday.
Everyone gives generously to this collection because there are no middlemen in the transaction. The missionary takes the money right back to the people s/he serves and distributes it where it's needed most.
These, then, are the charities to which I donate: those who make an appeal to me personally and with which I feel comfortable, and those with which I have been involved and know to be worthwhile. I also give to my church, and through it to the causes which it sponsors.
It's been said that God loves a cheerful giver. I believe He also expects us to be prudent and to only to share the His gifts with deserving recipients. If we are careful to do this, we will soon discover that God is never outdone in generosity. We will surely get back much more than we are able to give.
" We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Winston Churchill