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« March Madness at Free Money Finance, Sweet 16, Part 2 | Main | Exercising Your Most Important Assets »

March 26, 2006

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I'm interested in the answers to two questions when I donate money or time. The first is whether there is a genuine problem. I could probably find a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for pet dandruff, but I honestly don't feel there is a need for a charity to accomplish that. Secondly, I want to know that the specific charity I am donating to will be effective and efficient in the use of the resources I donate.

I do donate quite a bit of money, although far from 50% of my income. However, I make a point of donating my time. It is remarkably effective. It forces me to concentrate on local needs. I can give money to causes anywhere in the world, and I have; I can only give my time in places I can regularly get to.

Many charities that are operating very efficiently are doing so because they are staffed almost entirely by unpaid volunteers. Being one of those volunteers helps them to keep their overhead down.

When I spend time seeing what various local charities are doing, I get a very good picture of which ones can use donations of money. Often it brings needs to my attention that fall under most people's radars. The small needs can't justify a huge media campaign.

You meet people, good people, when you volunteer. I don't enjoy being badgered to donate money to some cause by someone who wants to tell me why I should care. I get far too much of that from groups whose causes and actual actions are badly out-of-sync with each other. I vastly prefer to spend my time with people who have found a cause that they can directly help. They are on the ground near the problem doing something to make it better rather than asking someone else to fix it for them. I can spend entire days shoulder to shoulder with people like that getting the job done, and I have.

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