How to Make Your Personal Philanthropy Smarter

The year-end holidays are when the interests of donors and charities are most in synch. However, after several disturbing news reports, I decided it was time to revisit how to give away money. With a bit of digging and diligence, you can make your generosity more effective and efficient.

First, the bad news: A few months ago, we discussed why the Red Cross had moved to naughty from nice on my list of charities. Due to its performance after Hurricane Sandy — a result of incompetence and an utter lack of transparency (Pro Publica has all the details) — I consider it off-limits.

Then there was the pre-Thanksgiving story of Savers Thrift Stores, which was accused by the Minnesota attorney general of “pocketing more than $1 million that should have gone to charities,” the New York Times reported.

It’s almost enough to turn a generous person into a Scrooge. But don’t let a few mismanaged (or worse) charities dissuade you from giving. In addition to the help you provide, studies show it’s one the best things you can do for your personal satisfaction. Money can buy you happiness — all you need to figure out is how to give it away intelligently.

But nothing these days is easy. What should be a simple process — helping a worthy cause or people in need — has become confusing and challenging, rife with incompetence and fraud. (Why does that sort of behavior sound so familiar?)

We are here to help.

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