Informed charitable decisions fosters more effective giving

As of Jan. 13, 16 million acres of land in Australia have burned in bushfires that have been raging for months, according to the BBC. In this time, the story has captured global media attention- and dollars. According to Business Insider, $73 million has been raised through Facebook fundraisers and more than 6,000 Go Fund Me pages have been created to support those facing the fire. In times of viral crises like this, many people look for ways to give to those in need, but these donations can be used more effectively by taking the time to research and understand the causes being donated to. 

“Think about specific needs you want to help with and then you can research ways to do that or ask friends for any opportunities they know of to help out or volunteer,” senior Allison Feder said.

One of the most obvious ways to support a cause is by donating money to a non-profit or charitable organization that is working to handle the issue. After all, in certain situations, there is no way to physically help, like with the wildfires in Australia. Additionally, many nonprofits depend entirely on donations. 

For example, the local charity UPS for DownS, which provides support and education for those with down syndrome and their families, is entirely funded by donations and fundraisers, according to board director David Wilkinson. Additionally, the organization is run entirely by volunteers. 

“I believe everyone has the best way for themselves to get involved,” Wilkinson said.  “Monetary donations are critical, but I find that donating time has such a huge effect on all parties involved. I think some volunteers may be surprised at how great they feel about themselves when they get the chance to help someone that can benefit from their time and gifts.”

There are many different ways to get involved with a non-profit organization. Most obviously, people can donate money that is used to fund programs and pay employees to help those in need. Depending on the group and their needs, people can also volunteer, directly helping the charity carry out their goals. 

“It’s a lot easier to give with money without really realizing what you’re giving towards,” Feder said. “I feel like a lot of the time when I’ve given with money, I haven’t been super aware of what I’ve been doing or been that emotionally invested in it, so I think giving with your time and with your actions requires a little more self sacrifice.”

Of course, not all charities are created equal. It’s important to research any charity or non-profit before giving to them to make sure that the money will be used effectively. There are several websites that rank charities and report on how they use their money, like Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and GiveWell.

With research, you can make sure that this is a cause that you want to be supporting. Although it can be tempting to just donate to the first fundraiser you see on social media or a flashy cause, by looking further, there may be other factors that you hadn’t considered. For example, some may choose to not donate to the Salvation Army, according to CNN, because they denied services to the LGBTQ+ community in the past.

While hands-on volunteering may feel more impactful than donating money, financial support also is a valuable way to support a cause. Each year, the charity ranking website GiveWell, releases a list of the seven top charities that could most effectively use donations. These charities have been found to work for causes that have the greatest life-saving impact and are able to manage their funds the best, meaning that each dollar donated is able to be used. All of the charities on this year’s list deal with problems on different continents, meaning that for most people, giving money is the best way to provide support for those who need it. 

“It would be great if you could help out physically with every cause, but sometimes you can’t and life gets in the way, but any sort of support you can give is good,” school counselor Brian Linhart said.

For those looking for ways to get involved, there are many opportunities within the BG community. The Bison Service Club meets regularly and is an easy way to participate in activities that will help others. There are also annual events such as BG Gives Back, the St. Baldrick’s fundraiser and the annual blood drive where students can both support causes in need and be a part of the school community.

Whether the charity or non-profit organization is benefiting a cause globally or locally, they provide valuable services that can have a tremendous impact for those who personally receive help. No one ever knows when they will be in need, but by donating or supporting charitable organizations, we are able to hope that there will be someone or some group to help us when we need it most. This is something that Linhart learned two years ago after suffering a traumatic brain injury.

“You’ve got to pay it forward, supporting people who need support,” Linhart said. “I’ve always been on the giving side, and a little over two years ago I was on the receiving side of support when I had my brain injury.”

No matter how you choose to help, supporting charitable organizations can be a way to help improve both a community and the world at large. By being careful and doing research, you can make sure that your time and money will have the greatest possible impact. From the Australian wildfires to local issues, there are always people and causes in need of support. 

 “I think people should be willing to donate to charities like this because it has such a positive community effect,” Wilkinson said. “It allows people to thrive in a community that otherwise may leave them behind and eventually have to support anyway.  When we empower others we affect more than just those direct connections.”