Call me a bitch, but I don't give money to charity. Or more specifically, charitable organizations that supposedly "help" people. This article sums up exactly why.
The other big problem I have with giving money to organizations is most of that money you gave won't even go to the people you want to help. If the Christian Children's Fund actually gave all the money they've been soliciting for in the past 20 years to the starving children in Africa, the African people would be far better off than they are now. If these organizations actually gave EVERY bit of a donation to the people they were trying to help, the people in need would be far better off & actually feel helped.
Let's just clarify the nuances. When I heard about the Haiti earthquake, I figured it would be more useful to give your money to people whose relatives are in Haiti. That way, they may be able to actually get that to their family who is in need. Even helping the people who have lost family members is more constructive in my book than handing money to some mega non-profit that may or may not get to the people you're trying to "help."
I guess we'd call this philosophy "charity begins at home." I think the most constructive way to be charitable is to actually do something personal for someone you know needs it. My mother in law's church does a Christmas toy & clothing drive where families who can't afford Christmas for their kids make lists of what 1 thing the kids want more than anything & parishioners go out and make it happen. Bravo!! The kids get the whole toys, not a piece after some corporation has taken stuff for its "operating expenses."
I also like programs where you pick a family & go help them buy and maybe make Christmas dinner. If you're actually seeing the family & can get to know them, that's great.
As long as there's personal contact with who you want to help and your gift is going directly to them with no middleman, I think it's great. I would rather pay somebody's rent or buy a starving person a meal than hand money over to United Way or some other charitable organization dealing with people. I want to know where my aid is going & sorry, the Executive Vice President or the Fundraising department doesn't need my money as much as I do.
Animals, institutions of art & other things where the people/entity you're trying to help can't tell you what they want are an exception to this rule. I imagine I'll be doing a lot of charitable giving to museums & cultural institutions when I have the $ for it.
I'd also consider giving to my law school's legal clinic since I worked there + they help people who fall in between needy enough for a legal aid lawyer & being able to hire a lawyer. That's a HUGE group of people & I'm all for helping those who fall between the cracks.
Now I know there's practical realities & all that for non-profits but it's unconscionable when the executives are making six figure incomes & 1% of a donation goes to the people who need it.
A lot of my family also falls under "the poor" and you won't see them panhandling or wearing clothing as nice as that of some of the panhandlers (at least in NC). Fostering the personal connection is important to me; if you give me a reason to care, then I'll be more sympathetic. Don't bother me when I'm not even getting paid & I'm struggling. Under Maslow's hierarchy of needs, one's own survival needs trumps the need to give to others or the esteem that comes from it.
I'm just not big on giving to people who won't help themselves or might even be in better shape than me or my family. You can bet my family, friends and those who've helped me will be the first to get help from me or even a nice gift to say "thanks" once I get situated. Take care of home first, then try helping everyone else.