You don't have to take The Giving Tree's word for it. Research shows that acts of kindness can make us feel happier. But when it comes to working with charities, the sheer number of causes and people asking for our attention can make it difficult to focus our giving. How do we select who will share our time or money?
Online resources abound and there are many companies who offer assistance in examining charities on a deeper level. It is all interesting stuff and if you can invest the research hours, many of these resources seem helpful. But even then, how do you really choose when there could be thousands of charities that receive a universal stamp of approval?
I thought it might be helpful to ask some of my colleagues at Delivering Happiness how they choose a charity or organization to work with:
Jenn Lim (Chief Happiness Officer): Transparency of how they use their funds, actual impact the organization has in the community, ability to interact directly with the people that are at the other end of contribution (financial/physical). Organizations I like: charity:water, Habitat for Humanity, Livestrong, Doctors Without Borders.
Clair Byrd (Captain Chatter): I choose charities based on what I think the most important needs for people are; basic life needs (food, water, shelter) and giving people the ability to change their circumstances, because you never know what that mind/soul could do with a little help getting on their feet. So my favorite charities are ones that provide basic needs for people without them, and also charities that provide people with ways or tools to change their circumstances for the better, like microloans, community centers and classes, etc. I also try to choose charities that have very transparent administrative processes to tell me, the donor, exactly where their money is going. Another important factor is final impact, so what charity can provide the most meaningful impact on an individual life.
Melissa Lacitignola (Chief Community Orchestrator): I choose my charities based on purpose, organization and community reach/branding. The first time I saw charity: water, I decided right then and there that that was a charity I connected with, both in purpose and the overall look and feel of their brand. That day I took the charity: water pledge to help bring clean water to those in need.
Svetlana Saitsky (DH@Work): For me, it always comes down to what speaks loudest to me, in terms of an emotional connection. I spent a few years volunteering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where Iraq war veterans would come home after they were injured. A good friend of mine was developing the volunteer program so I got involved to (a) help her, and (b) help a cause that was very important and emotionally powerful for me.
Eleen Agustin (Happiness Hustler): I tend to work with and/or donate to charities to help support causes that have touched my life or someone's that I know. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and American Cancer Society are two that I regularly support. But at Modern Mouse, we also collect non-perishable foods for the Alameda Food Bank to help feed lower-income residents of Alameda, as well as books for elementary school classes.
Jason Rieckewald-Schmidt (Salesforce Sherpa): Usually it is an organization that I have some connection to. My wife and I still support a school in Ghana because my best friend went there and had a great experience working with them.
For myself, I recently decided to construct a charity "target." The center contains the personal, the organizations my family is involved with or has benefitted from (usually school-related). Working out from center, I go local (community), then national. And finally, I choose at least one global cause to contribute to. I like the idea of informing my target with insights I gather from friends. How do you choose your charities?