Choosing a Charity
December 18, 2004 10:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in finding a good charity to support. However, I've had worries... [+]

Of course, I'm worried about how much of the charity's donations go towards the actual cause. Transparency of finances is very good. As well, I want a charity whose cause is not only humane, but provides for a better future as well. Literacy, education, job training, libraries, or something that builds infrastructure. Teach a man to fish, or equip him for it instead of giving him food for a day, in a way.

I'm very strongly against charities that push moral behavior, and refuse to touch any that discriminate based on such, like the Salvation Army. However, religious affiliation of any sort is alright, as long as the charity is not overbearing and does not support despicable causes.

Also, while international is just fine, something with a potential local (Oklahoma, USA) presence is preferable, as I'd like to offer time as well as money.

So, anyone have experiences or knowledge they could impart?
posted by Saydur to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
National Charity Reports Index from the BBB. Gives you pie charts listing administrative expenses, CEO's salary, etc.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 10:18 PM on December 18, 2004

The EFF fulfills most of your qualifications. I'm not sure about financial transparency. Perhaps someone who works for the EFF (there must be at least one of you among us) can shed some more light on that. In any case, it's apparent that they're spending money on visible efforts.
posted by Caviar at 10:36 PM on December 18, 2004

Guidestar is the industry standard for checking up on non-profits.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 10:46 PM on December 18, 2004

Someone just pointed me at Modest Needs. Seems like a pretty decent way to directly help individuals that could use a hand.
posted by majcher at 11:10 PM on December 18, 2004

Having researched the very question you pose, the Heifer Project, as improbable as it may sound, seemed to me the best all round charity to me. One of the more appealling aspects of it is the enduring benefit of an initial gift. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving. While international in scope, there are programs in the USA, although I do not know if Oklahoma is included. Perhaps it could be arranged. Have a look here
for what I've had to say about the Heifer Project before, there will be a link to their site as well. It's a good thing you're doing. Merry Christmas
posted by NorthCoastCafe at 3:18 AM on December 19, 2004

do you have oxfam in the usa? if so, you can help locally by volunteering to work in a shop. they have clear finances and the only moral stance they take is based on making the life if the poor better (rather than any religious attitude). they're also helping the most unfortunate in the world which, in all honesty, probably isn't people in oklahoma (i don't know whether this is a plus or minus point for you - it's a plus for me, but would be a minus if you wanted your money spent locally).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:00 AM on December 19, 2004

I was think of posting basically this question for a while. And all the organizations keeping track of charities is a good start.

But I'd like to know, and I think Saydur would too, specific charities that you know are deserving beneficiaries of our hard earned money. Local is good, kids are good, the environment is a good, but what it most important is that you know that the charity puts the donation to good use.

I know a bit about Partner's in Health, which judging from my interaction with them seem to put the money to good use, but it is not local to Oklahoma.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:01 AM on December 19, 2004

Not sure where you're located, but on the off-off chance you're in Oregon (USA) there's the S.M.A.R.T. (Start Making A Reader Today) program.

You'd be volunteering your time reading storybooks to kids—an hour a week. All of your donations (time) going towards the actual cause: Kids learning to love to read.

(And at the end of each month the kids get to pick a book to take home and keep.
Pretty neat.)

posted by blueberry at 9:38 AM on December 19, 2004

...while international is just fine, something with a potential local (Oklahoma, USA) presence is preferable...

I thought you meant local as in "the US" as opposed to international... but now re-reading it perhaps you meant local as in "Hey, I'm in Oklahoma", in which case Oregon would make for the tough weekly commute.

posted by blueberry at 9:52 AM on December 19, 2004

A charity that I donate to is the Alderson Hospitality House. It provides "temporary lodging, meals, transportation assistance, information and counseling to the families and friends and children visiting their loved ones at the Federal Prison Camp for women in Alderson, WV." The co-directors (husband-wife) take no salary; it receives no government funds and has virtually no overhead.
posted by WestCoaster at 12:50 PM on December 19, 2004

Thanks much everyone. While I'm quite fond of the EFF by principle, I see it a lot closer to political in nature than charitable.

I'll have to research some of these other suggestions. Modest Needs really hits home living in a town with a fairly large blue collar borderline income population, and it seems quite easy to get locally involved and put what few specialized skills I have so far to good use.

I'm a college student, therefore the preference for donating time. That's something I get some of on occasion, and I know throwing money at a cause is only useful with the workers behind it to back that up.
posted by Saydur at 6:38 PM on December 19, 2004

You could always join your local public library's Friends of the Library. Around here, it is really cheap. Or walk in, and hand them a check (tax deductable). Most US libraries are going through a really rough spell right now.

Most public libraries accept volunteers, too. They'll probably start you out on boring stuff like making sure the books are in order, but that is as important as it is tedious (but you do find nifty stuff to read). I've seen volunteers in libraries do carpentry, fix computers, set up budgeting spreadsheets, plant flowers, help set up booksales and help clean after minor disasters (like someone kicking out the toilet, causing a flood).
posted by QIbHom at 9:08 PM on December 19, 2004

This was a recent topic on Ask Slashdot if you'd like to check out the Slashdot crowd's take.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2004

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