August 2010: Eenie Meenie Miny Mo

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

With so many charities operating in the Fraser Valley, how do you choose which one to support?  What percentage of your income do you contribute yearly?  Do you volunteer your time anywhere?  If so, how much?

Everyone wants to contribute something to a non-profit, the tough part is choosing which one.  The summer holidays are a perfect time to evaluate your charitable giving and make a plan for the coming year.  Here are a few things to consider when you select an organization to support.volunteer
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  • Are you locally or globally focused? The very first thing to know when you’re deciding what organization to support is whether you want to fund local change or global change. If you’re not sure, think about what you’re interested in.  Would you rather read local news or global news?  Are you a world traveler or do you prefer to nest?  Most people, if they think about it for a minute, tend to recognize themselves in one category or the other pretty quickly. And some people know innately.  My sister for example, set up a hotel for Rwandan refugees in our basement when she was 5 years old.  Before the movie was made and when the genocide was on the news.  There’s no real reason why at 5 she should have understood that people were dying and needed care, but she did.  She’s been to Africa twice working with AIDS patients and teaching kids, so her passion for that part of the world has always been there and will continue to grow.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to have that clear of a calling, but if you give it some thought, you’ll know who you’ve had an urge to support in the past, and that should point you in the right direction.
  • How does the cause relate to your story? Committing to volunteer or donate to an organization over the long haul is difficult if that organization does something that’s not personal for you.  You’ll stick to giving to the Canadian Cancer Society when a family member has suffered from the disease, and you’ll give to a particular school if you’re alumnus.  So think about what issues have touched you and your loved ones, and consider giving to that.  You can feel good about being part of the solution to a problem that has actually affected your life.
  • What kind of accountability does the organization have? Every non-profit organization has a board; it’s the law.  The board essentially makes all the decisions concerning hiring, projects, delegation of funds, stuff like that.  Who is on the board is a matter of public record, so feel free to check them out.  You want your board to be a fair representation of the general populace, so there should be varying ages, ethnicities and both genders represented.  The best decisions for the direction of any organization don’t come from a group of people who are all alike; they come from a diverse mix of people who have different opinions and backgrounds.  Make sure the organization you support understands this concept; there are far too many non-profits out there with too little board accountability.
  • What is the communication plan for their supporters? Do you like getting a lot of mail, or do you prefer emails?  Maybe even phone calls?  Many organizations will let you know what’s going on any way you choose, so make sure you’re specific from the get-go.  If you don’t care for an update on what the organization is doing, let them know that too.  They’re going to solicit you for more donations once you give the first time, but make sure they keep you in the loop between solicitations if that’s what you’d prefer.
  • What’s the buzz? If you’ve found an organization that meets all of your qualifications, check out what others have to say about them online.  There are many ratings systems in Canada and the USA for Charities, so check those out as well as non-profit forums.  You can’t believe everything you read, but you can get an idea of what people before you have experienced.  This isn’t anything to base your entire opinion on, but it can definitely help.

Once you have committed to supporting a cause or organization, don’t forget that you’re the boss.  You can be as involved or as uninvolved as you wish, tailor your experience as much as you want to.  Charities count on money from you to do what they do, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or request additional information from them.

Contributor: Brianna Carson

Brianna is a nomad freelance writer from White Rock, currently residing in Edmonton with her boyfriend. She spends most her time writing and working in interior designs. Brianna visits the Fraser Valley as often as she can as it's her favourite place on earth.

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