Here on Mission Mondays, I like to bring out on occasion ways for people to make a difference right where you are. We don't always have the opportunity to go to places with needs (and there's always the needs right where we are anyway), but if there's a issue that touches your heart, it is nice to make a difference.
For instance, Idaho doesn't seem to have a high rate of human trafficking (although I'm sure it is more than we know), but it is an issue I care deeply about. Therefore I like to support organizations like International Justice Mission.
How do we know what we're doing makes a difference?
First of all, you can check with a group called Charity Navigator. This organization rates groups by financial stewardship and accountability. If most of the money goes to help those it is intended for, it gets a good money number. If it has policies in place to be transparent and accountable, that score goes up.
This is not the only resource people should use, but it is helpful to get an overview, especially if you're looking at a new charity you're not familiar with or it is a hot topic issue (the Haiti earthquake for example).
Christianity Today had a helpful article that reviewed ten different strategies that are popular for charitable giving right now, from clean water initiatives to giving animals through charity gift catalogs and laptops for disadvantaged kids. Several economists looked at these from a cost benefit and effectiveness rating. There were some surprising findings.
Corrective surgeries scored a little lower than one would expect, due to the higher cost per benefit. The gift catalog of giving assorted livestock or animals didn't rate very well, and this may change what I do next Christmas (even though my kids enjoyed this). The laptops initiative scored the worst and clean water projects scored the highest. Check out the article for more in depth information.
We all want to know that what we're doing to help really helps. Hopefully these two links help with discerning the best way to give in the future. It doesn't hurt to do our homework.
Have fun telling that to my kids though...