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Charity Events- Where Is Your Donation Going?

Charity Events- Where Is Your Donation Going?

| Sande Caplin |

Note from The Sarasota Post- Before you donate to a charity or charity event check to see that a third party is involved to collect and disperse the funds, and receipts will be made available for how the money was spent after the event is over and that includes accounts like “Go Fund Me”.  Thank you Jodi Schwarzenbach for writing this important story.

The world is a charitable place.  That might be considered a broad statement given the nasty state of our political affairs, and decline, some might say, of our moral fortitude.  But throw into the mix a cause that touches the hearts of people, and you soon have wallets opening and money flowing, hopefully, in the right direction.  Hopefully.  The problem many times with charitable organizations is twofold in that they get bogged down in greed and/or ineptitude.  It’s staggering to hear the salaries that many non-profit CEOs take home at the expense of the intended recipient and the giver, who unwittingly thinks their donation of $10, for example, equates to $10 in donations for the namesake of the charity, especially when it’s a matter of throwing a ten-dollar bill in a bucket as it gets passed around an event.  The hard and fast truth of it is you need to follow the money trail even before you decide to sign on to help with a charity or to give your hard-earned money.  

According to the National Philanthropic Trust, in 2015, Americans gave a whopping $373.25 billion out to charities.  The largest sources of donors were individuals, followed by foundations, then bequests, and corporations.  Many local organizations were involved in the recent Giving Challenge so people are used to the concept of giving a contribution, only to have it matched in some way by another entity.  That’s bonus giving, and the money raised in this manner is extraordinary.  But what about the other ways in which people are fundraising these days?  Anybody with kids can tell you there are a multitude of items to be sold out there, including popcorn, over-priced cookie dough, candles, magazines, and the list goes on.  Now the companies make it easy and safer for your kids by allowing relatives in faraway states to just go online and buy with ease, whatever the group may be selling.  Win/win for everyone!  And how about those GoFundMe accounts?  Sometimes I think, why doesn’t someone go fund ME?  Selfish thought, I know, but this concept and others intended to encourage start-ups and creative thinking, as well as assist those in dire need of help, have been abused.  It’s a great idea to quickly rally supporters for worthy causes and there are many out there.  But, sometimes one can grow cynical with all the hands out, utilizing the easy access tool of the internet to ask for money.  

Fundraisers where people come together to benefit a local person or establishment are common because generally there’s music, food, and fellowship among people working toward a common good.  People come to the event expecting to give and in return, are entertained, fed, et cetera.  Sarasota is a highly philanthropic area, whether it be large scale and grand with events like the offshore boat races or festivals around town, to smaller affairs including countless benefits held by the musical community.  There’s hardly a weekend that you don’t see Sarasota people out doing for others without blinking an eye.  It’s a beautiful thing to see people coming together and giving in a multitude of ways.  But how can you be sure your hard-earned donation is making its way into the hands of whomever or whatever endeavor you think you are supporting?  Just follow the money!

Consumer Reports recommends before you write a check to a charity, do some fact-checking with charity watchdog groups like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.

Consumer Reports recommends before you write a check to a charity, do some fact-checking with charity watchdog groups like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.  You’ll be able to see just how much of your dollar actually reaches your target.  Most reputable charities are going to strive for a 65/35 ratio, at least, to ensure that at a minimum, 65% of donations are spent on charitable activities, leaving 35% for administrative and fundraising costs.  Charity Navigator looks at a number of regional charities as well as national ones, so it’s easy to see if your automatic donations coming out of your check each week really are going to local food banks, job services and other charitable organizations in your area.

If you’re donating to a local charity, be sure an impartial third party is utilized to maintain transparency and to keep money out of the hands of interested parties.  A follow-up accounting should be made available following fundraisers so that even the most informal charitable, pass-the-hat gathering satisfies the inquiries of donors.  And in some cases, saturation, meaning a fundraiser generated by the same group, over and over again, causes donor fatigue.  It’s easy to ask for money, but people grow weary of outstretched hands and really like to see their money working toward something substantial.

The world IS a good and charitable place.  This is why time after time people come together to support a neighbor, co-worker, or stranger in need.  Landmarks and places of interest have survived another day from the wrecking ball all because people gathered for a cause and were not shy about dipping into their pocketbooks.  Let’s keep passing the hat and funding worthwhile efforts and individuals, all while looking ahead to where the money trail is going.  

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