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RE-THINKING MONEY, RELIGION & POLITICS

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The Most Charitable Time of the Year

During the holidays, it seems like everyone is tugging on your heartstrings and at your shirtsleeve to make a donation. From Giving Tuesday to bells ringing as you exit the grocery store, many voices compete for your charity dollars. As a follow up to the blog from a couple weeks ago about conscientious gift giving, I felt it was also important to shine a light on the many charities that contribute toward economic mutuality, both in the US and around the world. There are a number of things to consider in order for your donation to truly help those in need, so hopefully the following insights will be helpful.


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To begin with, there are 1.8 million nonprofit organizations in the United States alone. These organizations rely heavily on donations, with three out of four considering them essential to their survival. Individuals do the majority of giving, with the average donor being 64 years old. Historically, many Americans have been generous givers, but that statistic is currently on a downward trend. From designating 2.4% of disposable income to charities in 2005, the average American currently gives 1.7%.


It's clear that nonprofits need help, and giving to these agencies of change can be an effective way to promote the principles of Better Capitalism throughout various sectors of the economy. There are many great organizations to which one can give, but not all nonprofits are created equal. When considering to which one you should donate, you should ask these important questions for your contributions to have the desired impact:

  • What are the organization's goals and objectives? How effective has it been in achieving them?

  • What percentage of your donation goes directly to helping the needy, and what percentage is designated for administration and salaries?

  • Will donors receive updates about how their contributions are being used? Is there an annual report that covers what has been done and who has been impacted?

  • Is there transparency around the organization's finances?

Fortunately, there are a number of great sites to help you make these kind of evaluations. Organizations such as Candid (formally GuideStar), Charity Navigator, Impactful Ninja, Great Nonprofits, Charity Watch, and GIVE (BBB Wise Giving Alliance) all have ways of tracking different aspects of nonprofits. Filters on these sites allow you to search out categories, rating levels, financials, and leadership structure, among other statistics.


There are large, well-known organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity , Heifer International, and World Vision that do wonderful work and help people with housing, basic living needs, and assistance for their businesses. There are many other, and perhaps not so well-known, entities that focus on various forms of economic mutuality, and I've highlighted a few of them below, based on ratings from some of the sites mentioned above:


Rating: Charity Navigator - 97%, Candid - Gold level

This watchdog group is "dedicated to achieving dignity and justice for workers worldwide." The organization has three main objectives: to hold global corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains, to advance policies and laws that protect workers, and to strengthen workers’ ability to advocate for their rights. To these ends, the ILRF focuses on child/forced/migrant labor, health and safety, living wages, the right to organize and bargain, and women's rights.


Rating: Charity Navigator - 99%, Candid - Platinum level

Oxfam International works throughout the world to promote justice for workers. In the United States, Oxfam America brings low-wage workers to talk directly with their elected officials so they have more say over the policies that affect their lives. They also call on US policymakers to strengthen federal protections for these workers, including raising the minimum wage, providing workplace safety requirements, and advocating for paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, and affordable childcare.


Rating: Charity Navigator - 94%, Candid - Platinum level

Opportunity International designs, delivers, and scales innovative financial solutions that help families living in extreme poverty build sustainable livelihoods and access quality education for their children. They equip families with the tools and training needed to build businesses, improve harvests, provide for their families, send their children to school, and break the cycle of poverty. Various initiatives include education and agricultural finance, micro-banking, vocational training, and and digital financial services.


Rating: Charity Navigator - 100%, Candid - Platinum level

Village Enterprise promotes entrepreneurship that is community-based and locally-led. The organization equips people living in extreme poverty in rural Africa to flourish with cash transfers, training, and mentoring to create climate-smart, sustainable businesses and savings groups. Digital technology and a group-based approach make this model more scalable and cost-effective than traditional approaches. Over 83% of their entrepreneurs are female, ensuring greater gender equity and increased opportunities for women and families.


There are many, many other worthy charities, and I encourage you to seek out one or more that resonate with where and how you want to help effect change. Assistance is not just needed in December of course, and giving throughout the year can help these organizations function much more effectively. Perhaps you want to focus on a different charity every year, or choose one per quarter, or stay with the same one for a number of years.


I would also encourage you to not overlook the small, local organizations that make big impacts on your own community. In the same way that Christ told his disciples to spread the gospel, you might start with giving in your home town, extending to your state and the nation, and finally reaching out internationally. I personally enjoy giving to my local charities. Being able to meet the people who run them and participate as a volunteer adds a dimension and satisfaction to your giving that money alone can't attain.


In the end, the giver is blest by being a blessing to others. As Jesus responded to the question of when his followers had fed and clothed him (Matthew 25:37-40), we honor God when we have compassion for and take care of others. I can think of no better way to celebrate Christmas than to follow the example of the one who came to be a blessing to us all.



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"This book merits close, sustained attention as a compelling move beyond both careless thinking and easy ideology."—Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary


"Better Capitalism is a sincere search for a better world."—Cato Institute


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