In hard times, people still find satisfaction in giving

My wife and I devoted many years of our professional lives to raising funds for good causes. On occasion we were also entrusted with selecting the worthiest recipients to share in large corporate and foundation grants. Believe it or not, we found it more satisfying to ask for money than to satisfy all those who clamored for a share of it.

My wife and I devoted many years of our professional lives to raising funds for good causes.

On occasion we were also entrusted with selecting the worthiest recipients to share in large corporate and foundation grants. Believe it or not, we found it more satisfying to ask for money than to satisfy all those who clamored for a share of it.

Even in hard times like the present, people find satisfaction in doing good with their gifts, large and small, sharing their bounty with those in greater need.

This year Becky and I wrote checks for our favorite charities early, before we began counting down the days until Christmas.

Even in hard times ordinary Americans remain the most generous people in the world, donating each year $300 billion to charitable and nonprofit organizations. In times like these, gift giving involves sacrifice, so it is more than ever true that we should give wisely, ensuring that our generosity does the most good.

Giving via the Internet is just as convenient as shopping online, yet Steve McLaughlin at BlackBaud, a global provider of services to nonprofits, notes that, as yet, only six per cent of Americans’ charitable contributions are made online.

That statistic is about to change.

Chris Hughes, one of the founders of Facebook, recently created Jumo, a website will list every conceivable charity and explain how it uses its donations.

When it went online this month it already listed 3,000 good causes.

Hughes told The New York Times that Jumo will not compete with Facebook, nor will it be used to directly solicit donations, but only to inform potential donors. It will, however, accept endorsements and critiques by individual donors to each charity.

Jumo joins existing databases that help donors choose their charities wisely.

They include networkforgood.org and JustGive.org.

Traditionally, charitable organizations have been ranked by the portion of each donation that actually goes for the organization’s work rather than being used for administration and fundraising.

Charity Navigator — charitynavigator.org — is the best-known online source of this information.

Pat Dugan, founder of Charity Navigator, awards one to four stars to charitable organizations to reflect the amount of each donation that directly helps recipients.

Recently he told the Times he had second thoughts. Over the next three years Charity Navigator will also evaluate each charity’s accountability. What most matters is, what a charity actually achieves, Dugan said.

“People with a lot of money to give away … really want to know whether the charities they are giving money to are actually achieving anything with that money,” Dugan says. “That kind of information is hard to come by.”

At present, research by the firm Hope Consulting has found that two-thirds of all donors rely on no other information than that provided by the charity itself.

David Yount is the author of 14 books, including “Spiritual Simplicity” (Simon and Schuster). He answers readers at P.O. Box 2758, Woodbridge, VA 22195 and dyount31@verizon.net.

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