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We’ve been going through a fun and interesting debate in my family: Now that we can double our money, who should get it? Source: NLG

No, we haven’t come into a windfall. But it’s the time of the year when we can sign up for a company program that matches contributions to nonprofits.

It’s really a great opportunity and it’s pretty painless. I can choose to contribute to up to three nonprofits and National Life will deduct the money from my paycheck, either equally throughout the year or in one lump sum.

And the National Life Group Foundation will match each of the contributions dollar for dollar up to $500.

Which gets me back to who should get it. There are organizations that we regularly support and have for years. We know we’ll give to them again. Should we give them a little more, knowing that we’ll be able to leverage an even bigger investment?

Or, now that we can do even more with the help of the Foundation, should we spread the wealth, so to speak, and support a new charity or two?

There appears to be no right answer – and, thankfully, probably not a wrong one, either.

But it’s gotten us to thinking strategically and prompted some research.

Charity Navigator is a good source for guidance. “By guiding intelligent giving, we aim to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation’s and the world’s most persistent challenges,” Charity Navigator says in its mission statement.

It offers a handful of really good tips:

  • Review last year’s charitable investments

  • Be specific

  • Look under the hood

  • Donate online

  • Concentrate your giving

Those are broad concepts and not entirely on-point. I can’t make online donations, for example, if I want to participate in my company-match program. But it’s good advice. Charity Navigator has also done extensive research about thousands of charities and can give you information about how much of your money goes to program support and how much goes to fund-raising, among other background.

Another organization that’s done a lot of the work for you is called Charitable Choices. It was created more than 25 years ago and “has been producing and distributing guides to charities that have met the accountability requirements of the federal government’s on-the-job charity drive, the Combined Federal Campaign.”

That’s not very different from my own company’s Community Giving Campaign.

And Charitable Choices has some great advice, too. It offers a thoughtful essay about choosing who to support.

For example, it discusses the pros and cons of focusing just on those nonprofits that have low overhead, pointing out that small charities might spend a lot on administration simply because they’re small and can’t spread the costs out over a broader organization.

And it offers some questions that are worth asking yourself:

  • What about where a charity works? Should I be more concerned with the local, the national or international?

  • What about the way charities help people in need? Direct services? Education? Activism?

  • What about size and name recognition?

  • What about their effectiveness?

These are great questions and have spurred some great critical thinking in my family.

We haven’t quite decided, yet, which causes to support. But I can tell you that we’re really thrilled that we’re able to do more by taking advantage of the match provided by my employer.

You should check with your own HR department to find out if your company does the same. If it doesn’t, maybe you could offer to help research and launch a similar program.

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