What Are You Giving This Christmas?

It’s that time of year when bells are ringing, and I don’t mean the jingle bells on Santa’s sleigh. I’m talking about the Salvation Army bells. Every year I go digging into my pockets for loose change to put in their buckets while admiring these volunteers who will stand in the cold for pocket change.

I knew the Salvation Army was a good organization, but I realized that I knew little about the reach of their charity. So, as any curious blogger does, she researches.

Of course the first stop was their website, and I was amazed. I had no idea that the Salvation Army did so much in so many areas. They provide disaster relief, help veterans and the unemployed, combat human trafficking, work to cure hunger and provide shelter, to name a few. I encourage you to go to their website to see how much they do.

We mainly think of the Salvation Army bringing happy holidays to the less fortunate, but they work year round.

The Salvation Army has an interesting history.

William Booth founded the organization in 1852 when he left the traditional church to take the Gospel to the streets. He preached to the poor and destitute in the streets of London. Disagreeing with the church’s methods of not allowing certain people in the church, Booth wanted to administer to the unwelcome and to those who couldn’t make it to church.

Along the journey he trained evangelists throughout England and within 10 years, his organization then known as the Christian Mission had 1000 volunteers and evangelists.

In 1878 while reading the church’s annual report he decided to change “the Christian mission is a volunteer army” to “the Christian mission is a salvation army.”

His wife, Catherine Booth co-founded the organization and worked alongside him as an evangelist and preacher, something the traditional church would not have allowed.

There are probably thousands of charities that you could choose to donate to, but I urge you to do some research first.

Charities can prey on your heart strings, but it’s up to you to make sure your money is going to the proper organizations. Find out how much of the money donated goes to the program versus administrative and fund-raising costs.

On the list of worst charities were organizations that had as little as 2% going to the programs that they were supposed to support. The Salvation Army sends $.82 out of every dollar back into the community where it is donated.

I found three very good websites to help you evaluate charities that you are considering: Charity Watch, Guidestar, and Charity Navigator. The last has a tool where you can create a list of charities to compare.

When evaluating charities, research the administrative costs, fund-raising costs, and CEO salaries and benefits. Decide what value you put on each before you make a decision to donate.

For me, I put considerable weight on what the CEO makes. If there’s a CEO making over a million dollars to run the charity, and getting a Rolls Royce I would eliminate that charity as fast as I could put my dollar back into my pocket. I might soften my stance when I considered what percentage his or her salary is compared to the total expenses. Not likely, but there’s always a chance.

Watch your emotions!

Perhaps you are one who only values the emotional aspect. I hope that if you’re one of these, you’ll reconsider and find the charity where your money will do the most good. But, ultimately it’s your decision.

Christmas is the time of giving, especially when many of us are so blessed to have so much. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and to give wisely in the new year.

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