Get “$” Fit Challenge- November 2014

Feeling Charitable? Where does all the money go?

Around the Holiday season it seems that donation requests from charities increase.  Now, don’t get me wrong – my phone at home rings at least 2-3 times a week with solicitations from one organization or another.  It can get rather annoying.  These calls bother me as much as the billboard I pass on the interstate.  It reads, “Give so I can live” and has a photo of a bald little girl.  I’m not anti-cancer or anti anything where folks are suffering in some way.  I’m all for supporting organizations and giving money to do good.  I am a charitable person but I just want to know where my money is really going.  To me blind giving doesn’t make me feel good and doesn’t make financial sense.  If I’m asked to donate money for something I know nothing about I’m not likely to do so.

a present for you

Locally, I figure out what charities I want to support for the coming year.  Making this decision ahead of time allows me to honestly tell all the solicitors that, “I have already made my charitable designations for this year.  If you’d like to send me some information showing the breakdown of how your contributions are allocated I’ll be a happy to review it for next year’s consideration.”  Guess what?  In over five years of asking, I have never received one mailing.  Surely I am not the only person asking for this information?  Donors need to do homework; know what percentage of donations goes the administration cost of the charity.  Choosing a charity with low administrative costs and higher benefit to the end user makes sense.  I know two people who have worked in quite high positions in national charities.  To hear the stories of bureaucracy, waste and gridlock does not make me want to support these organizations.  It is sad to hear about the millions of dollars raised for something in particular – a storm relief fund, or some natural disaster – only to hear that much of the money raised never was distributed to the supposed beneficiaries.

I enjoy supporting organizations and charities that I can be involved in.  Seeing a direct benefit from my donations is meaningful and important to me.  At Preferred Financial Strategies, we’ve had coat drives, pet food drives and clothing drives for organizations that expressed a specific need.  Clients and friends have been terrific about bringing donations to our office.  I don’t need or want to be guilted into making donations.

Several articles have appeared over the last few months highlighting the lower contribution levels charities are experiencing.  They postulated that the increase in the number of charities is actually decreasing the contributions overall.  Interesting.  Further, they noted that donors were more interested in making a local impact and knowing where their funds were being used.  One item of interest was the increased awareness of micro lending and direct donation.  You can now find credible online sites where you can choose the business, country and amount you want to lend.  You can see the direct outcome of your loan.  Not a charitable contribution necessarily, but something that lets the donor participate directly with the end beneficiary brings the experience to you, giving an uplifted feeling when the business you donate to succeeds.  At that point you may choose to re-lend to another cause.  Giving a good degree of choice and control to the donor is a good idea that may even generate a higher contribution!

My point is this.  Be cognizant of your contributions!  Get involved in the organization or at least do your research!  Make sure you are supporting a group that compliments your core beliefs!  Fiscal responsibility for all is a smart Financial Strategy For Life!

About Sara Seasholtz

Sara Seasholtz, CFP®, was voted one of "50 Most Influential Women in Charlotte" by The Mecklenburg Times in 2011, and has assisted her clients with their financial planning needs for over 40 years. Have a financial question? ASK SARA!


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