Monday, April 09, 2012

Smart Giving

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...


  1. Sometimes wonder why so much giving is directed towards religion instead of charity. Any idea why Christians favor buildings and salaries over charity?

  2. Well Bob, I'll leave it to you to ask the hard questions!

    I would say the answer goes beyond a comment reply, as I'm sure you know, but to throw out a couple of thoughts:

    1. It is seen as an investment in what is going on locally. It benefits those who give the gifts, and it feels like it is spiritual (I'm thinking of pews with plaques on them saying they're donated in memory of Aunt Bertha).
    2. Churches lose sight of what is important. My church has been looking at replanting grass in a large field on our property after water rights were changed and the grass died. Will the grass help us meet the needs of the community better? Will it be a positive draw? Maybe we're losing perspective if we pour thousands into sprinkler systems, wells, and other costs.
    3. Protestant work ethic for the salary part. The workman is worthy of his wage.

    We don't have a terribly elaborate building and my church supports denominational missions as well as a missionary directly. We do pretty good with our giving, but I'm sure we can do better.

    What do you think?

  3. Thanks for the great reply Jason. Here are my thoughts. :)

    I support my church (which supports local and foreign charity) but see my membership there more like being a part of a club where I meet others' needs and others meet some of my needs.

    I don't however feel that my tax-deductible contributions to the church are charitable in nature. Hence I find other giving venues to meet the needs of the poor. Unfortunately most pastors think that gifts to these charitable groups should be subservient to gifts to their churches.