Feeling Better About Yourself Might be at the Root of Charity

Dirty hands, palms up

Could giving to charity make us feel less “unclean”?
Image: Shutterstock

According to a recent study published in Psychological Science, giving to charity might be one way that people help to feel “clean” after being inauthentic. The study investigated the effects of inauthentic behavior–behavior that does not coincide with a person’s actual feelings or personality–and how that made them feel afterward. Many people, when asked to think back on a time that they had to “perform” and weren’t allowed to be themselves, admitted to feeling unclean.

Those same people, when asked to help out with an additional 15-minute study, were more likely to do so, while people asked similar questions but given the opportunity to use hand sanitizer during the study, were less likely to do so. The results seem to show then, that people who feel that they aren’t being their true selves in their day-to-day lives are more likely to perform charitable actions.

Those charitable actions don’t need to be donations or volunteer work specifically, but helping others in some way or another is one way to feel better about ourselves. This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to people who habitually donate to charities and understand that helping others feels good. But it might help to explain less focused or more spontaneous giving.

Donors who give regularly to established charities tend to do the most good with their money, but how many of us have paid that extra dollar at the grocery store or at a fast food restaurant to support a children’s hospital or cancer research? How many of us have given money to a homeless person or have felt the sudden urge to help out a charity we’ve just discovered? Think about how often you do these things and when. How often does helping out one homeless person make you “immune” to the needs of other homeless people, even on the same street?

None of this is to say that these actions are bad, but they might be more about helping ourselves than others.

How to Help the Nepal Relief Effort

Aftermath of the Nepal earthquakes

You can help with relief efforts dealing with the Nepal earthquakes.
Image: think4photop / Shutterstock.com

Nepal was hit by a series of earthquakes in April and May of this year, and there are many people there, especially in Kathmandu, that need help. A 7.9 magnitude quake hit in late April, killing around 8,000 people and injuring thousands more. Another quake hit on May 11, killing at least 29 people and injuring thousands. Downed power lines and cell towers are impeding relief efforts, and so many people have lost their homes that the government has asked charitable organizations to donate a million tents.

If you’re inclined to help out, there are a number of charities that you could donate to in order to be as helpful as possible. It can be tempting, after such a disaster, to donate reactively, to help out any “charity” you see come across your Facebook or Twitter feed. But not all charities are created equally, and some aren’t even really charities, but scams taking advantage of generous people.

Whenever you donate, especially in a situation like this, it’s important to be rational, to take your time, and think about your decision. Figure out how you want to help people, find a reputable charity that shares those concerns, and then donate.

Luckily, the charity research site Charity Navigator has created a list of over 50 charities that they feel are worth your time. These charities are all specifically working to help the victims in Nepal, and all have either a three or four star rating on Charity Navigator. These are trustworthy, reputable charities that will do the most good with your money that they can do. They will also allow you to designate that your donation go to the Nepal relief effort instead of one of their other projects. This list is an excellent place to start looking for ways to help the people of Nepal after such a devastating disaster.

 

How to Vet Your Charity of Choice

Definition of "charity" on computer monitor screen

Do the research to make sure your donation is going to the most trustworthy charity!
Image: Shutterstock

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal suggests we should vet our charitable giving as much, if not more, than we do our investments in stocks or mutual funds.

This is particularly true of situations such as the Nepal earthquake. According to Charity Navigator vice president Sandra Miniutti, traffic to the site tripled to about 100,000 in the week after the earthquake. The outpouring of generosity is encouraging, but also potentially problematic, with individual “victims” on social media and some crowdfunding endeavors that aren’t entirely legitimate.

There are ways to avoid being hoodwinked, however. Because most charities are eligible for tax-deductible contributions, they are required to make public information about their finances and governance. That means more solid information for would-be donators to judge whether or not the charity is a good investment.

Furthermore, finding and sorting through this information is much easier these days with all the options online, such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar, which offer in-depth information about charities, their financial status, and how they use the donations they receive.

The trick is to note the charity’s financial disclosures as reported on their Tax Form 990, which most charities are required to file (except for churches). Some charities have their 990s available at their offices, and many make them available online.

Some individual states have other requirements for reporting tax information, so it’s worth it to check with your state about what rules a charity must follow as well. In New York, for example, the state publishes information about charities’ sources of government funding that you wouldn’t be able to find on the IRS 990 form.

The long and short of it is, while donating to charities is a fantastic and generous thing to do, it’s always worth your while to research who will be receiving your money and what they intend to do with it. If you’re not certain, get the extra background information to ensure that your donation counts!

Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America Draws to an End

Kyle Petty, NASCAR driver

Kyle Petty’s Charity Ride Across America is coming to an end for this year.
Image: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

The 21st annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America is coming to a close.

The 2,500-mile motorcycle ride from California to Missouri was created by Kyle Petty, whose father is NASAR legend Richard Petty. The ride raises funds and awareness for Petty’s Victory Junction, a camp created to benefit kids with chronic illnesses. It was created in honor of Petty’s son Adam, who died racing.

This year the ride included the Pettys as well as NASCAR giants Donnie Allison, Harry Gant, and Matt Kenseth, as well as Herschel Walker of the NFL and many others.

The eight-day ride has been going for 20 years, and Kyle Petty takes the time to promote it on Twitter to allow others to experience the fun and understand the deeper meaning behind the program.

This year the ride has special meaning for participants, as its co-creator Don Tilley died last August. “The 2015 Ride will serve as a tribute to our special friend,” wrote Kyle Petty on the Ride’s website.

Victory Junction camp serves children ages 6-16 who might not otherwise be able to attend camp, given their illnesses, which include everything from HIV to cancer to diabetes. The camp opened in 2004, and since then, it has served children from all 50 states, as well as some international participants. It is a member of Paul Newman’s SeriousFun Children’s Network and is accredited by the American Camping Association.

Programs are offered year round and include 24-hour medical supervision and accessibility as well as plenty of activities that are exciting and fun. Because the camp strives to provide its services at no cost to the children and their families, fundraising events like the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America are vital. The camp works hard to provide kids with the opportunity to try new things in a safe, empowering environment that encourages resilience.

Top NYC Charity Benefits in Spring 2015

Red carpet

Many important charity galas will be taking place in New York City this spring.
Image: Shutterstock

 

Many charitable organizations organize lavish charity galas and events during the spring in New York City. These events invite prominent donors to dine, dance, drink, and raise money for incredible causes that benefit the arts, employment initiatives, health, social justice, and more. Here are some of the most anticipated charitable events of the spring season:

 

The 8th Annual Taste of Success

Taste of Success is an annual event to benefit StreetWise Partners, a New York-based organization that transforms the lives of low-income individuals by helping them realize their career potential and assisting them in their search for employment. Led by a Board of Directors that includes Anton Levy and Tony Snow, StreetWise Partners has been a formidable presence in NYC since its formation in 1997. Taste of Success features NYC’s finest food, wine, and spirits, and proceeds from ticket sales will go towards StreetWise Partners’s empowering programming.

 

Memorial Sloan Kettering 8th Annual Ball

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center, considered one of the best health institutions in the world. MSK is dedicated to providing exceptional patient care and conducting innovative research, and it’s able to do so with the help of generous donor gifts. The Memorial Sloan Kettering 8th Annual Ball will be chaired by Judy Cox, Kamie Lightburn, and Elizabeth Miller, and all proceeds from the Valentino-sponsored event will go towards innovating cancer research and care at MSK. Last year’s ball raised an astounding $1.3 million to benefit The Society of MSK, and this year’s is expected to bring in similarly significant numbers.

 

Friends of the High Line Annual Spring Benefit

The High Line, also known as the High Line Park, is New York City’s sprawling aerial greenway and rails-to-trails park located along 1.45 miles of reclaimed railway in Manhattan. The High Line is a public space that promotes art, urban green spaces, and community, supported by a nonprofit organization called Friends of the High Line. The Friends of the High Line Annual Spring Benefit is taking place later this month and will honor Friends of the High Line president and co-founder Joshua David and others. Funds raised at this year’s Spring Benefit will “ensure a thriving future” for the High Line.

 

For even more charitable events and galas, check out this roundup from Guest of a Guest.

 

Insomniac and eBay Partner for EDC Week Charity Auction

EDC poster

Insomniac and eBay are partnering up to run a charity auction as part of this year’s EDC.
Image: http://givingworks.ebay.com/insomniac/

Insomniac, host of the annual Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), has partnered with eBay and local charity Culture Shock Las Vegas to raise money for charity through an innovative program that provides one-of-a-kind experiences for festival attendees. A 10-day online-only auction, running from May 5-15, allows visitors to bid on festival experiences, with the proceeds going to Culture Shock Las Vegas, a nonprofit street dance troupe that offers opportunities for young people in Las Vegas to get involved with the music industry.

EDC is offering over 50 experiences for bid on eBay, ranging from VIP access to various shows to opportunities to meet artists in person and pitch your own music. The opportunities include a helicopter ride, access to a private cabana, backstage passes, the opportunity to participate in a Cirque du Soleil rehearsal, and more.

Culture Shock Las Vegas will use the money raised to support their program, which uses dance and leadership training as a way of keeping kids away from drugs and into positive activities. Developed in 1995 under fitness expert Darryl Thomas, the organization aims to expand opportunities for lower-income youth in the Las Vegas area. The program only has the capacity at present to support 25 students at a time, but with more funding, they could increase that number, as well as augmenting the programming.

“Our fans have an incredibly generous spirit and so much passion for the music, that it makes perfect sense to give them special access to the festival, its artists, and dozens of exclusive events in the name of charity,” said Pasquale Rotella, founder of Insomniac. “Culture Shock’s message of positivity and community aligns perfectly with the spirit of EDC, and I’m so glad that we can offer one-of-a-kind experiences while bringing attention to an organization that is doing amazing work in Las Vegas.”

This year’s EDC will be June 19-21.

Helping Charities vs. For-Profit Fundraising Firms

Woman with headset at call center

If someone calls you to ask for a charitable donation, chances are it’s a hired telemarketer.
Image: Shutterstock

Have you ever received a phone call from a charity seeking a donation? If so, there’s a good chance that the person calling you was a professional telemarketer working for a company contracted by that charity. Often, charities will work with fundraising firms in order to try and reach out to more people more quickly, with the assumption that doing so will increase the donations they receive, allowing them to do more good.

Unfortunately, the reality is that most of these charities are losing out on the deal. According to Charity Navigator, professional fundraisers take a pretty big cut of your donation for their services. This means that, when you get that unsolicited call and you donate, some, maybe even most, of your money isn’t actually going to that charity. In fact, some for profit fundraisers end up taking the entirety of your donation and still charge the charity a fee.

So what should you do it you get such a call, but you still want to help? The best thing you can do, whenever you donate, is to be as informed as possible. Get whatever information you can from the person calling you then, after hanging up without donating, do some research on your own. Look the charity up online, read their documentation, see what other people have to say about them. Make sure you’re comfortable with the charity, with how they raise and spend their money, and if you still want to donate, call them directly or donate through their website.

When you donate directly to a charity, instead of through a fundraiser, you ensure that they get all the money you donated. Something else to consider, though, is that charities that hire outside fundraisers tend not to be very efficient; after all, they’re spending donation money to hire such companies. Consider finding a similar charity that doesn’t use for-profit fundraisers and donate to them instead, your money will likely go further.

Thinking About Starting a Charity?

Many hands holding different currency

Are you considering starting a charity? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Image: Shutterstock

Have you ever considered starting your own charity? It’s not something to consider lightly, but something that takes a significant amount of thought, planning, and research.

Before you even start thinking about your own charity, do some research into the problem you want to address. What, exactly, is the issue? What is being done to address it, and what can you do to help? Study up on all of these things before you move on to the next step.

What should that next step be? Most likely, you should be looking at other charities with the same interest. If you want to help sick children, find out who else is doing that at a local, state, and national (even international) level. Contact these other groups and find out what gaps they see that you might help fill. Those gaps might be at a local level, where larger charities have trouble reaching, or they might be a specific kind of research. While there is certainly room for more than one charity to address a given problem, overlapping charities can only do so much.

You want to make sure you have a specific niche and a strong plan for how to address that problem in order to attract donors. You’re not competing with other charities–not directly, anyway–but if you can’t tell your donors what you do and how you do it, they’re less likely to donate, and then you can’t do any good.

For that matter, do you even need donors? You need to work out a plan for how your charity will function, not just day-to-day, but over a longer period, like 3 to 10 years. Think ahead!

Starting a charity isn’t easy, but there are a lot of resources out there. If you want some more tips, check out this 2013 Guardian article. A good place to start researching other charities is Charity Navigator, which offers a wealth of information about how existing charities function. Get out there and do some good!

Why Philanthropy is Good for Business

Businessmen and women holding hands

Corporate philanthropy can actually be great for business.
Image: Shutterstock

Of course it feels good to give, but did you know there are actually professional business benefits as well? As corporate giving increases, the positive outcomes for both businesses and the community continue to grow. Here’s a look at just a few.

Building relationships

When a business dedicates time and money to a cause, it shows a drive for positive change. This can be a great way for a business to build relationships—often relationships that lead to future customers and business opportunities. When a business shows outstanding dedication to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), they are proving to customers, both potential and current, that the future of the community matters to them. This can lead to an increase in brand loyalty down the line.

Building a brand

Big name partnerships between philanthropic organizations and businesses lead to more exposure for both. The United Way, for instance, has a variety of notable partnerships with businesses such as the NFL. And according to the CSR Branding Survey 2010, 75% of those who read about a company’s social responsibility agenda said it made them more likely to purchase from that company in the future. They also said they were more likely to tell a friend about the business. That’s a great way to spread the word about what your company offers!

Building employee engagement

Corporate philanthropic giving can also be a great way to engage employees and create a sense of community, with everyone working toward a larger goal. Many companies now encourage their employees to volunteer, which can add to a worker’s energy and drive. Not only does getting involved make your business look good; it also helps the people within that business get motivated and feel good about working together toward a larger goal. And of course it’s great for the outside community your employees are helping, too!

Bill Gates, an avid philanthropist as well as businessman, once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” More and more, businesses are proving their abilities and the quality of their services by getting out into the community and showing an interest helping with the problems of the larger world around them.

Three Charities That Help Animals

Sleeping cat

Have you considered donating to a charity that helps animals?
Image: Shutterstock

If you love animals, you might consider donating to a charity or non-profit that helps them out. Your money could help find homes for pets that need them or help protect endangered species or further research into protecting fragile ecosystems. Look for local charities or non-profits you can support through donations or volunteering. Or, if you want to try something on a larger scale, you can search for state, national, or international charities.

Consider one of the below charities to start. They’re all worthy causes, and they might introduce you to some issues you didn’t even know about.

Alley Cat Allies is “dedicated to protecting and improving the lives of our nation’s cats.” They seek to help educate people on how public policy can work against cats, from animal control ordinances to shelter policies that result in many cats being killed every year, simply because they don’t have a home. They advocate for humane care, the education of cat owners, and connecting people who need or can offer help.

The American Veterinary Medical foundation is the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and they have been helping veterinarians help animals for over 50 years. They utilize donations to help offset the cost of veterinary training, to help educate people on the importance of veterinary medicine as a part of food safety, and to help further medical research. They also have programs to recognize exceptional veterinarians and to help families with pets deal with disasters.

Days End Farm Horse Rescue is a “well respected national rescue and rehabilitation facility” which has helped over 2,000 horses since 1989. They focus their efforts on rehabilitating and training injured and abused horses so that can be adopted by caring individuals. They also seek to educate people on the needs and proper care of horses in order to prevent abuse and neglect in the first place.

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