So, I know y’all are used to getting bombarded with donation requests from Thanksgiving to Christmas. But, given the fact that my religion celebrates the New Year (Rosh Hashana) in September, this is when my mailbox overflows with solicitations.
It doesn’t hurt that our New Year (and the next holiday 9 days later) culminates the season of introspection, forgiveness, and setting goals to be the better person we all should be. After all, helping others in need is a key aspect of this effort.
The giving of Tzedaka. which means a heck of a lot more than charity, since the root includes justice, has a totally different connotation. Providing tzedaka is a moral obligation; as opposed to benevolence or generosity and certainly NOT magnanimity, but the performance of a duty, providing those who come up a little short their due with an act of righteousness and justice.
It’s why many of my co-religionists spend a heck of a lot of time researching various entities and groups that reflect the values we have and our concerns for the world. As a matter of course, I recommend we all should consider how effective our donations really are.
Does the charity have a ridiculously high overhead? (Notice, I didn’t put a number there. Many folks think it’s OK if a charity uses 25% of their funds for salaries, procurement of funds, advertising, etc. Some folks [me, me, me, me] expect the ratio to be closer to 90%.)
Are you sure that when you donate funds for a specific cause that’s exactly where it goes? For example, if you donate money to the Red Cross when it’s advertising to help Houston and the rest of the Texas “coastline”, do you realize if you don’t specifically click on Harvey (this was written before Irma, the same applies for that relief), your funds can be used anywhere the Red Cross desires? (I won’t go into the fact that even specifying a cause with the Red Cross doesn’t always so guarantee where your finds go.)
How do you find such information? Charity Navigator comes to mind. (I also use Jgive.com to donate my funds, which doesn’t zap the chosen entity with service fees for helping collect the funds.) The Paypal Giving Fund (as opposed to clicking on a paypal button for a given charity) operates like Jgive.com and does not charge service fees to the charity, so your funds go much further.
I also periodically mix up the entities I support. Sometimes because there is a more pressing need. (For example, this year, I donated to a slew of Houston-based needs – homelessHouston.org, HoustonFoodBank.org, and the Greater Houston Foundation ghcf.org, among other additions.)
By the way, just because the waters have receded in Texas, does not mean that Houston (et al) no longer needs our help. Moreover, the poorer residents of the area are far less resilient- and far less capable- of rebuilding. Don’t stop your donations to these folks!
Oh, another fun fact. Did you ever notice that charities with Jewish roots have funny denominations suggested? Instead of $ 50 or $ 100, you would see $ 36, $ 54, $ 108, $ 180. Because those numbers are all multiples of 18. And, 18 is the numerical depiction of the word “chai”, which means life.
May your charities keep preserving and benefiting life – the way you hope life should develop.