My Catholic Digest article on charitable giving . . .

My Catholic Digest article on charitable giving . . . October 11, 2013

is now online for your reading pleasure.  Also includes the names of some excellent charities, and some tips for how to plan for your own financial future.

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  • Nicely done. Clarifying, and with so many good points.

    #5 surprised me a little though…I was always taught to expect that a reputable charity would keep overhead, administrative, and fund-raising to 10% or under, not 25%.

    • Heather

      My best friend works for a not-for-profit, and the fact of the matter is that it costs a lot more to raise a dollar than it did in the past. Between a market crowded with more and more charities competing for those dollars, and a poor economy meaning people would rather hang on to their dollars than give them away…

      It also depends on what the charity focuses on and how big it is. If it’s a tiny little organization with very modest goals that don’t require a lot of specialized training, travel, manufacturing, storage, etc., yes it can probably get away with a very low overhead. But the bigger and more ambitious it is, the more money it costs to keep going.

    • Dan C

      Such a notion of under 10% was partially created by fiscal conservativism’s images of how to run businesses. Yes, there are some charities that do keep overhead under 10%, and most of these are “feed ’em and leave ’em” charities providing no substantive change in environs. Supporting such by conservatives 10-20 years ago allowed them to isolate those charities whose work for substantive change wouldn’t vear into advocacy for justice. This is an enormous concern for some.

      Such accounting demands as to less than 10% for overhead also prompted some disclosures in operation that were “funny accounting.”

      If an organization is involved in service delivery (hence personnel-based), and may require high-level skills in this service delivery (think trauma counselors at Covenant House), there may be substantive overhead. Benefits, training, logistics, etc, are often lumped under “overhead” even beyond the work needed for fund-raising.

      The ideology that prompted such an arbitrary number as 10% was not based on any identifiable calculus. It had to do with some politics, as one who watched that number evolve into a “truism.”

      • I was taught that rule of thumb a bit longer than 10-20 years ago, so the attempt at political finger-pointing is lost on me.

        I think you do make a good point about creative accounting. Some charities indeed do shifty things to goose their percentages.

        But wouldn’t the salary of a skilled person engaged full-time in service delivery be legitimately counted by almost any organization as part of the percentage of funds spent on their service mission?

  • richard

    Thanks for this informative article. I was unaware of sites like Charity Navigator. For donating I begin with my diocese’s needs then work outward. I like L’Arche USA for one. Another is Catholic Charities USA. One perennial problem is exactly how much I ought to give each charity.