Smart Money lists seven ways to stretch charitable gifts as follows:
- Give to the neediest organizations. Charities helping people get by in this tough economy, such as food banks, homeless shelters and utility assistance programs, are getting hit the hardest by a double whammy of fewer donations and rising demand.
- Go beyond cash. Donating your time or unwanted belongings can help charities a lot -- and it won't bust your budget.
- Use sites that offer matching donations.
- Check financial records. With fewer charitable dollars in play, make sure you're giving to a nonprofit that puts more into its programs than its administrative costs.
- Seek reputable outfits. A reputable charity should offer hard numbers regarding the amount of aid distributed as well as, say, number of homes built or winter coats handed out.
- Skip the middlemen. To make sure your entire donation goes where you want it, send money directly to the charity.
- Stay focused. To maximize the impact of your contributions, focus on just one or two charities.
I do work with several non-profits and most of them are saying the same thing: contributions are way down but the demand for their services is way up. We've made a few extra contributions in the past month to help those we see as the neediest, but the need is over-whelming.
If you can afford it, I ask you to consider giving to the charity of your choice this holiday season. If you're reading this, the odds are that you're among the wealthiest people in the world (even if you're "poor" by U.S. standards) and there are a lot of hurting people out there who would appreciate your donation.