I never saw my parents donate money, which is why I would always turn up my nose at the collection basket as I sat in church every Sunday as a kid. I was taught that throwing money at a problem doesn’t always solve it if not spent wisely.
If my parents saw a homeless person on the street, they would take them out to lunch and learn their story instead of dropping change into a hat.
I came to realize that my peers thought I was being “cheap” or “selfish” when I ignored that collection basket as others threw in their loose change. Peer pressure never made me feel remorse about my opinion, but I grew irritated at the judgments people made.
Attending college is no different. With fundraisers happening on campus all the time, I found my new peers came to make the same conclusions about me.
I choose not to donate money because, for the most part, I do not know enough about the charity or organization to know where my money is going. Most people I know don’t bother to look up charities or organizations before donating.
All non-profit tax information is public record, so looking up how the charity spends its money is helpful if you want to see where it goes. There are multiple online websites, such as Charity Navigator, that show whether the charity you want to donate to spends its money on staff salary, resources, or on giving back. Other websites, such as Giving Alliance and CharityWatch, will let you know if a charity is trustworthy.
People who are smart about donating will avoid fraudulent organizations that take advantage of generosity only to pay a CEO instead of the needy.
The agenda of a charity is to convince you of a cause so you feel concerned or guilty enough to donate. Businesses have agendas. Charities are only obligated to spend a small amount per year on the actual charitable activity. The remaining dollars go into funds that generate interest.
According to Charity Navigator, the American Cancer Society spends 5.8 percent of its donations on administrative expenses and 34.2 percent on fundraising expenses such as publicity, printing, and mailing costs.
Comparatively, the American Red Cross spends 3.8 percent of its donations on administrative expenses and 5.5 percent on fundraising expenses.
In addition to needing to do my research, I firmly believe that throwing money at a problem won’t fix the issue. Yes, charities do need money to do important work, find cures for diseases, and provide resources to those less fortunate. However, I would rather donate my time than my money.
Instead of giving money to the American Cancer Society, I would rather spend time volunteering at one of its events. Once I realized how many organizations spend a majority of their money on administrative and fundraising expenses, I understood why my parents never donated or spared change.
I was raised to help people, not organizations or businesses.
Rebecca White is a communication major from Mission Viejo, California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.