A man came to my door this week to ask for money. He held up a series of papers with official-looking seals, claiming that these documents proved that he was raising money for a legitimate charity. The charity was a half-way house designed to get people off the streets. As I asked a little more about the charity the answers seemed a little odd. I asked for a website or literature to learn more about the charity and was told that I could give through a website but that he was supposed to raise the money to prove that he was serious about getting off the streets. As we talked I grew more suspicious until I finally declined to give the man cash and told him I would be willing to consider giving once I researched the charity through the website. He quickly left and I never did receive a website.
During this time of giving, I encourage you to give wisely. Of course, giving wisely does not mean that you cannot give. I believe strongly in giving and have seen the joy that comes from being truly generous in my own life and in the lives of my clients. However, giving wisely does mean that we are thoughtful and intentional with giving. I prefer to give to a select number of charities that I know well and where I also invest my time. I enjoy being involved in the work, getting to know the leadership, and seeing first-hand how my money is being used. This takes time of course, and I can’t be personally involved every time. When I can’t be personally involved, I like to do my homework. There are plenty of resources available to help you hold charities accountable. Organizations like charitywatch.org, guidestar.org, and givewell.org rate and rank charities based on their governance, transparency, salaries, and other factors.
I don’t want to take away the joy of giving by being too suspicious, but I do want to make a real difference. To this day I do not know if the visitor to my door was legitimate. Should I have given something despite my suspicion? Perhaps I should have. However, when I am giving over the years I want to be investing in something. I want to see real change and make a real difference. I believe that this takes spending a little bit of time to find the charities that really are making a difference. I encourage you to give but to also give wisely and generously and find the joy of giving this Christmas.