Am I the only one that freaks out when it comes to giving donations? There are so many deserving parties! Should I help animals? People? Ecosystems? Children? Gaaah!!!! I CAN'T DECIDE!!!
Because I have difficulty choosing recipients, I have decided to make donation decisions based on the organization receiving my money. Because cash is a bit scarce these days, I focus on the places that get the most bang out of my buck. After all, I don't want 30% of my donation to go toward some large bureaucracy- I want as much of it to go directly to the intended recipients as is physically possible.
One of the charities that does this best is DonorsChoose. My room mate Caroline pointed it out to me about two years ago, and I have been raving about them ever since. On the DonorsChoose website, school teachers post proposals for various classroom improvements (such as upgraded reading materials, dry erase boards, calculators, and project supplies) that have corresponding prices attached. Proposals are screened by DonorsChoose volunteers before they make it to the site, so you can be sure they are legitimate. Once requests are posted, prospective donors have the opportunity to check them out and provide funding. DonorsChoose uses the money to purchase the requested supplies and ship them to the teacher, and donors recieve thank you notes from the class, photos, and a teacher Impact Letter.
What I love about this system is that it allows donors to know exactly where their money is going. I also love the gratification that donors get from the class pictures and thank you notes. So many charities accept donations that seem to go directly toward something tangible by giving you the chance to, say, buy a goat for a family in a developing country, however more often than not, the fine print reveals that the "goat" is only a representation of what may be purchased with your donation. DonorsChoose donations, on the other hand, go precisely where you think they will. Now that is awesome!!