Are You Not Giving to Charity for One of These Reasons?

by Jessica Sommerfield · 22 comments

In the financial world, the term “charitable donation” is often associated with the tax write-off it provides. But besides that added perk, there are hopefully other reasons you choose to donate to charities.

The number one reason, in my opinion, should be the desire to forward a cause you personally believe in.  

What better way to use your hard-earned money than to play a personal role in helping a cause close to your heart? Everything costs money, and most non-profit organizations rely heavily on donations.

What I want to address in this post, however, is why some people choose not to give.

I want to believe that not many people are penny-pinching or non-caring — because, frankly, that’s depressing. I think there may be other reasons people aren’t giving, and I want to address some of them here.

My hope is that, after reading this, those of you who don’t give yet will feel more motivated or more interested in doing so.

1. You don’t trust the integrity of charitable organizations

This is totally understandable, considering the number of scams that are exposed each year. As with anything, there are both good and bad organizations — you just have to be careful in your selection.

Just because there are some dubious organizations out there asking for money doesn’t mean there aren’t also legitimate ones that need your help. All that’s required is a little research. Any reputable organization will have a track record of projects they’ve completed, real testimonials, and proof of financial responsibility. Charity Navigator is a great place to start. If you can’t find any information, or don’t know anyone involved with the charity, it’s best to steer clear until you have more information.

2. You don’t think your donations actually get spent on what they’re supposed to

This is also a legitimate concern. You might donate to a charity for years before reading the small print that says only a small portion of your donation actually goes toward the charity — while the rest is for “operating expenses.” This is why it’s essential to find out up front what each dollar you donate is actually doing.

That being said, even non-profits have expenses. A portion of your donation may go toward supporting the organization itself, which in turn accomplishes the things you want your money to fund. If the amount of money going toward operating expenses seems disproportionate, it probably is. Also, if an organization can’t tell you what your money is doing, you have the right to be suspicious. As long as you get clear information from the charity before donating, you should be set.

3. You don’t have an affinity with larger charitable organizations

It’s important to give to causes you can relate to and feel passionate about. The United Way, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and American Cancer Society are reputable non-profits you’ve probably seen fundraisers for. They’re so well known that some employers offer the option of donating to them through payroll deductions. These organizations do good things, and a large number of people feel comfortable donating to them. But maybe you don’t feel drawn to the causes they support — and that’s okay.

You don’t have to donate to a large non-profit to participate in giving.

Maybe you have a heart for sponsoring a poor child in another country, or perhaps you want to support your local animal shelter, community center, or soup kitchen. However you give, make sure you’re able to see the tangible results of your money.

If you still have reasons not to give, or if you simply can’t afford it, you can always donate your time. Many organizations are desperate for volunteers and would welcome any support you can offer. This type of giving will have a lasting impact on your life, as you form relationships and participate directly in supporting your favorite causes.

What other reasons might people have for not giving? Do you think charitable donations are important?


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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ruth says:

    I will only give to big organizations if the disclose how much money per year
    Is spent on “administration” costs. Very few will ever do this.

  • Michyle says:

    1 and 2

    I used to donate to the United Way, until I read where several high ranking officials in The United Way were having $100 lunch’s on the Way’s Nickel. Plus you add that most heads of these “Charitable” organizations earn as much as Corporate CEO’s. I prefer to go to Food Pantries, or to Donate clothing.

    • David @ says:

      Boo to those high ranking officials! The good news though is that our ever transparent world is making these sorts of things harder and harder to hide.

  • Property Marbella says:

    Sadly enough, most charitable organizations are rather greedy themselves and very little of the money ends up with those who need help. I sometimes give to beggars in the subway, etc. that seem to be in need of some money.

    • David @ says:

      That’s why charity navigator is so good, as the site can help you figure out which ones are really trying to help.

    • RustyGee@Looking forward to retirement says:

      They may be in need of money and I ask myself “What are they going to spend the money on?” I helped at a food bank once where a couple came in asking for help to feed the kids because they ran out of money and reeked in cigarette smoke. I asked what they spent their money on and gave me a story about the car needing repairs. When I asked that if they spend money on cigarettes, they had the audacity to say “NO!”. They were given food because they came and asked after I reminded them that “the kids” needed to eat over spending money for their habits.

      So when you give money to a beggar, are you giving it to them to feed their habits or is the money going to a good purpose. Do you give money to ALL the beggars you see or do you pick and choose?

  • Bill@settledebt says:

    I think one reason people don’t give any more is that they’re sick of being harassed for money by charities. If you donate to a charity, you can be sure to receive the annual call or maybe even more frequent calls. Some will be standing in train stations waiting with tin in hand to get your money. I regularly pass 7 to 8 charities all vying for my small donation each day. I sometimes feel if I donate to one, I am rejecting all the others.

    For some people, maybe it’s easier to not donate at all?

    Personally, I prefer to donate directly to one charity every year.

    • David @ says:

      I find the calls annoying as well because they keep calling once you are on their “list”. A possible solution is to give anonymously though. This way no one will know except you!

  • Addison @ Cashville Skyline says:

    I’ve noticed a hesitancy to give when I know the funds won’t be distributed at the local level. I feel a stronger connection with and desire to help those in need from nearby neighborhoods.

    • David @ says:

      It’s always good to directly see where your dollars are at work. Perhaps you should seek out smaller local non-profits because chances are good that you’ll be able to be more involved with the organization and see how your donations are benefiting those around you!

  • David @ says:

    I’m starting to realize that the more I give, the happier I become. And this isn’t just money either. Your resources (time, skills, $$$, compassion, friendship, etc) can all be used for charitable acts that change not just the recipient’s life for the better but your own as well.

    • Court says:

      I’ve noticed the same thing with myself as well. I’m slowly learned to become more generous with my time and really try to focus on others and help them out. Not only do I help someone in need but I just feel better about myself as well. Especially in moments where I feel like I’m stuck in a rut, the best thing for me to do is help someone else out. It actually helps me with whatever I’m working on!

      • David @ says:

        Thanks for speaking out Court. Hopefully more people will start realizing this and then not only will we have a better society, everyone will be happier too!

  • Dee @ Color Me Frugal says:

    We donate clothing and other household items to Goodwill often, but at the this point in time we don’t often donate money. It really doesn’t have to do with the reasons above though, it has more to do with the fact that we have a lot of debt and we want to get our debt gone. Once the debt is taken care of then we will probably start donating more. This post has made me realize that we are going to have to do quite a bit of research before we choose a cause to make sure that our money goes to a place that is in line with our values!

    • David @ says:

      You are doing the responsible thing for you and your family Dee. Before we can help others, we need to make sure our own finances are solid first!

  • Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says:

    I think charitable donations are important but I think you make a good point about the large charities. The Salvation Army, for instance, has a history of being anti-gay and anti-muslim so I avoid contributing to them.

    • David @ says:

      I can be tough to donate to an organization that makes a stance you don’t agree with on a heated issue, but consider the work they’re doing instead. If they happen to be the organization that can most effectively use your dollars to help a cause you believe in, then that organization is still worthy IMO no matter what views the CEO at the time happen to hold.

      • Ginger says:

        The salvation army has specifically harmed gay individuals and that idea is a part of their company not just a idea of one CEO.

        • David @ says:

          Having opposing views (or disagreeing) is okay, but harming is definitely not. Thank you for clarifying Ginger.

          • Ruth Cooke says:

            This is a really tough issue, and it’s not clear cut. I’m speaking here as a Lesbian woman, a Christian, and as a person in need who has received hampers at Christmas from the Salvation Army. I also am personal friends with a former Salvation Army preacher who was turfed out because he was gay.

            The Salvation Army did not ask me for my sexual orientation on the hamper application, nor was I questioned when I went to get it. To my knowledge, they don’t ask those questions when handing out any of their social services. However, the fact remains that they definitely have a stance that’s harmful to queer folks.

            Last year, we had a Nativity Pageant, and the Salvation Army played. After some debate on the matter, we decided as a thank you to send a donation DIRECTLY to the hamper program. They cannot use that money for anything other than helping folks in need, and we already have proof that this helping is done without regard to sexual orientation, and that it serves a tremendous need in our community.

            If you’re in tune with some of the work a particular organization does, but you don’t want your dollars supporting things you definitely don’t agree with, a directed donation might also be a possiblitiy.

  • Gary Kerr says:

    These are part of the reason I don’t like to give the charity, but we should have donate to those who are in need. That’s why I always give to charity anyway.

    • David @ says:

      Have you considered giving directly to the needy, namely, the homeless you see on the streets? This way, all the resources you are spending on the charitable act is being utilized to the full extent!

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