According to charitynavigator.org, the average American spends $800 on gift giving during the holidays. A recent trend shows that more of that money is being given as charitable contributions in someone’s honor instead of in the form of a traditional gift. But is your donation reaching it’s intended purpose? Maybe consider a local donation to a hometown organization if you’re concerned about how your contribution is spent.

Donor beware

A study done by the Center for Investigative Reporting has found and named the 50 worst charities based on the use of the money raised. Believe it or not, these 50 charitable organizations gave less than 4 percent of the cash raised for its intended purpose. The rest went to general operating expenses, administration and corporate solicitations. That list can be found at www.tampabay.com/americas-worst-charities.

The report cautions donors to be sure they know whom they are giving to. Those cited in the study have names that sound familiar to more well-known charities but have very different practices in how contributions are spent.

The vast majority of the charitable organizations operate under more ethical practices and are utilizing donations for their intended purposes. Of the 6,800-plus charities evaluated by charitynavigator.org, the vast majority spend at least 75 percent of their budgets on the programs and services that they exist to provide, 10 percent or less on fundraising fees and 15 percent or less on administrative costs.

Local giving

One way to ensure you know where your contributions are going is to give to a local organization of your choice. Many of our rural communities rely on contributions in order to provide programs and improve facilities and services. Senior citizen centers, hospital and school foundations, food pantries, churches and other community organizations rely on contributions to help them reach their goals. Many of these organizations are made up of volunteers. Administrative costs are low and your investment in the organizations and their services yield a high return in achieving their intended objective.

Like many communities, Oakland takes pride in offering a senior center for its citizens. Jami Method serves as the manager of the facility and its programs. Method said that with local organizations, it is the little things that really add up when it comes to contributions.

“Whether it is bringing in a cake or ice cream, a box of cookies or putting a few dollars in the donation cup for coffee, every little bit helps, Method said. “No donation or volunteer is to small. We appreciate it all so much.”

Whether they offer scholarships to graduating seniors in the community or provide added care to the patients, local organizations such as Golden Oaks Senior Center utilize the donations made to their fullest potential. A simple phone call to the foundation or facility manager can answer your questions about how your donation will be used. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or city office for a list of potential organizations in which to contribute in your community.

Tax deductible

Charitable contributions can be considered for tax purposes during the year in which they are given. Christmas makes a perfect time to give your end-of-the-year contributions in honor of someone as an alternative to traditional gift giving.

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