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In this day and age it seems that everyone has more information than ever. However, as everyone’s daily lives seem to get busier it can become more difficult to make informed decisions. Philanthropy is a platform that requires using your head as much as your heart when you decide to make a contribution. Everywhere we turn there is a cause that needs our help, and deciding on a charity to donate time or money to can be stressful, especially when it’s important to you that any contribution you make is used appropriately.

At the end of the day we’d like to make sure that our donations are being spent on an organization’s mission and that their cause identifies with our own set of values. If you find yourself trying to choose a charity, it’s incredibly helpful to follow a set of guidelines.

Here are a few tips for choosing a charity.

Pick a Cause
Sit down and consider what is most important to you. Do this before you begin volunteering your time or even opening your checkbook. There are a plethora of great charities, so when deciding it’s great to be able to take the time and find one that resonates with you the most. What’s important to you? Would you like to help sick children or be a part of combating climate change? Some people give all their time to ending hunger, while others feel that helping animals is the most rewarding. You can find a charity that helps the community that you live in or identify with. Choosing something that is special to you will make the contribution feel much more rewarding.

After you’ve decided what type of charity you’d like to help you can begin to research different nonprofit organizations. It is vital that you understand the charity’s mission. Part of your research should involve finding information on the spending, income, and salaries of the charities you are deciding between. If an organization is not forthcoming about their finances avoid that program.

There are a few great websites such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar that you can use as resources when checking the accountability of a charity. Eliminate any program that doesn’t meet your criteria, so that you can be positive that your time or money is going to those that will use it best.

Decide Between Time or Money
Don’t forget that you can donate something other than money to a charity. Spending time as a volunteer can be a satisfying way to help. Everyone is different and sometimes a busy schedule may make it difficult to be there in person. If that’s the case and you decide that a cash donation is best for you than make sure you have an understanding of exactly what that donation can help to accomplish.