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Keep an eye on donations

Emphasizing the importance of researching charities

by EMILY FODOR Section Editor

Donating to charities and causes is a selfless and generous act intended to benefit the less fortunate or ill; however, people need to know where and what their money is doing for a charity before they go into their pockets and hand out their cash in lump sums. It is important to research the ways charities spend their money before donating in order to get the maximum help for people from your money.

For example, many people buy bracelets, t-shirts, pins, and even donate money to “awareness campaigns.” Contrary to popular belief, these donations may actually be doing nothing for or hindering a charity.

Take breast cancer, for example – the first thought that comes to mind is that many, many people are already aware of breast cancer. Although it is kind to wear pink paraphernalia  showing you support the cause, most awareness campaigns are to gain media and publicity attention, not to really make people aware.

In addition to useless publicity for a cause that already has widespread awareness, these campaigns can often misrepresent a cause they are trying to fight. In the case of breast cancer, many slogans focus on the appeal of, well, “boobs.”  Despite being inappropriate, it brings less attention to the groups of people that also develop breast cancer. Older women are more prone to the disease and many “awareness campaigns” never focus on that. Instead of focusing on actual cancer victims, the media focuses on attractive girls with slogans on their shirts and NFL players with pink attire.

Lastly, while supporting an awareness campaign, it actually makes people less likely to donate to the actual charity, like the Susan G. Komen for the Cure fund. Under the notion that they are already helping the cause by buying bracelets or pink clothing, people are less likely to donate cash or checks, while Komen actually funds research.

Not only do donors have to worry about awareness campaigns, but the relevance of a charity’s “overhead.”  In other words, overhead is the amount spent on maintaining offices and other fees, rather than helping people. Most people believe that with a small overhead, their money is going straight to the people who need it, and they feel more confident in their donations. While this is not entirely untrue, it is important to remember that some money does need to go to office supplies, employees, and equipment in order for a job to be done properly and to its best ability. In addition, many charities calculate their overhead differently, and sometimes incorrectly.

Although lower overheads are better than high at times, what is crucial is investigating where exactly your money is going to ensure you are really aiding people and/or animals. The bottom line is: just like a brand new computer, look into the credentials before you throw your money into it, and the benefits will outweigh the cost.

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