I think we’ve all been guilty once before.
Every now and then, a well-told tale of heartache, survival or suffering tugs at our heartstrings and we reach into our wallets and find the nearest donation envelope. Or you get a call as you’re sitting down to dinner from a cancer society or state troopers fund, and you think, “Maybe if I just give them money, they’ll stop calling.”
Enter this incredibly sobering graphic is a great way to put charitable giving into perspective.
As a data journalism lover who also considers herself pretty active in community service and voluntarism, this site left me both excited and sad.
First off – this is journalism done right. The Center for Investigative Reporting is an integral resource to journalism, and the work they produce aligns hand-in-hand with the phrase “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Sometimes what we need to know most is something so ugly, we wish we didn’t know. But it all goes back to one of my favorite lines in the Principles of Journalism:
Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. The Founders recognized this to be a rampart against despotism when they ensured an independent press; courts have affirmed it; citizens rely on it.
On the other hand, it’s pretty sickening to see how often people’s donations go to pay solicitors – and how some of these charities are commonly recognized. The American Breast Cancer Foundation only gives 5.3 percent in cash to those who need it most. Heartbreaking.
I’ve always been particularly leery of who I give donations to, and how I spend my time. My rule of thumb is to spend my time and money where I can see the biggest impact firsthand. Many people need help in Hampton Roads. Being involved in the Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach allows me to work with a number of local nonprofits where I can see a direct impact in volunteer efforts. Habitat for Humanity, local shelters, food banks, Girls on the Run and many more organizations need people to help donate their time – not necessarily money. Obviously, nonprofit organizations need money to operate. But spending time with the organization and learning its structure is the best way to know your financial contribution will make an impact.
My little two cents on getting involved with charities: Instead of spending your money, spend your time. Take your family to the food bank to help sort out food. Instead of consigning those suits and dresses that don’t fit anymore, give them to Dress for Success. Work with children who need love. Not only will you get a great sense of community (whether it’s local or broad), but you’ll see first-hand where your efforts are spent.