First rule of giving – Follow your passions. What are the causes that move you? Housing the homeless? Feeding the hungry? The arts? Education?
In a common sense report, Donating to Charity, A Guide, the Urban Institute advises potential donors: choose your charity; don’t let the charity choose you.
Once you decide your cause, how do you want to help? Some charities study problems or advocate on behalf of issues, deepening public understanding of global warming, for example, or the root causes of homelessness. Others provide direct assistance. They build homes, feed the hungry, tutor children.
To find out about specific charities locally, check out the Nonprofit Resource Center. It will tell you which charities in our region are in good standing. Beyond Sacramento – go to guidestar.org. It keeps track of all major nonprofits across the country.
But the best way to know whether your donations do what you want them to do is to visit the charity, or better yet, volunteer. Whatever you do – hand out food, tutor kids, visit patients in hospice – gifts of your own time and effort can be the most satisfying of all for donor and recipient alike, no matter the season.
Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.