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The Quick and Easy Method to Determine If A Charity Is Worth Donating To

The Quick and Easy Method to Determine If A Charity Is Worth Donating To

We live in an age where things go viral on an almost daily basis. Gone are the days when ideas and videos needed time and a lot of effort to become widespread. In 2014, you can post a video of your cat wearing a birthday hat before work and come home to 2 million page views if you strike the right cord with your feline-friendly compatriots. This is great news for charities. Whereas in the past not-for-profits needed to spend a lot of money and resources getting the attention of would-be donators, now all they need is a good idea and an internet connection.

Case in point, the recent viral sensation that was and is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In a few short weeks the ALS Association saw a flood of ice water turn into a flood of donations raising over $100 million compared to $2.8 million in 2013 according to Time. But with the potential for any new cause to pop up on your newsfeed on any given day, how do you sort the legitimately good causes from the organizations that might not use your money as effectively? Use this guide to find out.

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Measuring the Need

An important question to ask is if the cause at hand is a major problem that needs to be addressed. A charity that knits coats for homeless dogs may not be as pressing to give to as one that aims to fund biomedical research on a debilitating disease.

Finding Their Form 990

It turns out, every US-based charity is responsible for filling and making publically available what is called an IRS Form 990. Yes that’s right, it is the taxman to the rescue. All you need to do to find the Form 990 for most charitable organizations is to type the name of the charity and “Form 990” into your favourite search engine. If you run into any problems finding the one you are looking for you can also sign up for a free registration at a website called GuideStar where you can find financial info for most major charities.

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Income v. Expenses

Once you have the 990, all you have to do is know what to look for. Thankfully, most of the useful information is summarized in a few lines on Page 1 of the document. Line 12 denotes the organizations total revenue for the previous year and Lines 13 through 19 explain how they spent that money.

Administration Fees

Every organization will have some administrative costs associated with its operation, but are those fees in proportion to the good they are doing.  Line 16b of Form 990 tells you how much the charity spent last year on fundraising fees, which is a good indication of efficiency when compared to overall revenues.

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What Do They Spend on Grants?

Specifically Line 13 is the dollar amount given out by the charity in grants and other similar funds. This is the money that goes to do the good work the charity is known for. The higher the number on Line 13 compared to the number on Line 12, the more of your money goes towards working on the cause you were interested in when you donated.

How Much Do Their Executives Make?

Another handy feature of Form 990 is that Page 8 outlines the salaries of the organizations highest paid employees. This allows you to quickly and easily see how much of the fundraising money from the organization goes into the pockets of the people doing the fundraising.

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What Do They Spend on Marketing and Other Contract Work?

The bottom of Page 8 also gives the dollar amounts spent on private contractors for things like marketing and media productions. Take a look and ask yourself if the numbers are acceptable to you in terms of what the charity is spending money on.

Really that is all there is to it. If the charity you are interested in is not based in the US things can be a little trickier, but not much. A quick search using the charity’s name and “financial information” will generally give you what you need. For example, the detailed income and expenses for the Canadian David Suzuki Foundation can be found online here. If you’re interested in seeing what a real Form 990 looks like, this link will take you to the form for the ALS Association. And there you have it. You will be well prepared to do your research on the next viral cause that captures the global imagination. Happy giving!

Featured photo credit: Howard Lake via flickr.com

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Published on November 11, 2020

10 Best Ways to Save Money Faster and Smarter

10 Best Ways to Save Money Faster and Smarter

People love to talk about budgeting, reducing spending. and investing. But unfortunately, talk is cheap, and poor money management is expensive. It’s easy to talk about the best way to save money, but putting it into practice is a different thing.

What people need to talk about is the practical and efficient ways you can quickly save money to accomplish your goals. After all, they don’t teach this stuff in school.

Here are the 10 best ways to save money faster and smarter.

1. Cancel All Your Subscriptions

Yes, all of them.

Okay, you can keep your wifi and trash. But other than that, cancel all your monthly subscriptions for one month. You will survive, I promise. Better yet, you will realize you won’t miss all of them.

Now that you have had 30 days to examine what you really missed and what you never thought twice about, you can add some of them back in. The others? you never have to think about them again.

This is something you can and should do with every part of your life. If it’s clutter, cancel it. Being able to step back and see what is cluttering your life and what is excelling your forward helps improve your quality of life and financial standing.

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2. Automate Savings From Your Paycheck

Many of us are so excited about getting a new job that we rush through the paperwork during the hiring process. Good news for you, I have had lots of jobs so I have seen it a million times.

There is an option for a portion of your paycheck to go directly into a secondary savings account. This is by far the most effective way to save money every month. We tend to spend most of what we have. So, if we take it off the top first, then it’s less likely to be spent. Just head over to HR and ask. It will only take two minutes.

3. Cancel the Happy Hours for the Rest of the Pandemic

We are in the middle of a global pandemic, which means that there is no better time to buy some drinks from the local store and stop shelling out $5 a drink at the local cocktail bar. When we look back at our bank statements, we are always shocked that fast food and alcohol can add up so quickly. You can easily save a couple of hundred dollars just by taking this step.

A great exercise is to print out your last bank statement and highlight all the areas of alcohol and fast food. The amount may surprise you and make you think twice about that old fashion.

4. Online Grocery Shopping

Some people think online shopping increases the amount they spend. For the most part, I would agree—except for this category.

Online grocery shopping is now a no-brainer, though. Whenever you walk through a grocery store, two things always happen: you always grab impulse items, and you never know the total of your cart until you checkout. This means that we always spend more than we originally planned.

With online shopping, you can see your total as you add items to your cart. You are way less inclined to make those impulse purchases and because of that, I would venture to say that you could even pay to have them delivered to your door and still save money each month by choosing online grocery shopping.

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5. Get a Famzoo Debit Card

This is something my wife and I swear by, and it’s great for the entire family! Famzoo strictly exists to help families and kids budget their money better. Each month, my wife and I have an allotted amount loaded onto our pre-paid Famzoo debit card. This amount has changed every year depending on promotions, kids, stage of life, etc.

The important part is that when you give yourself the freedom to spend a certain amount, you are more likely to only spend the allotted amount. Think of it as a diet. If you are counting calories, you are more likely to stick close to the amount you set. You can also look for some tips online to better stick to your family budget.

6. Purge

This is actually my favorite to do, and it is actually one of the best ways to save money. Raise your hand if you have ever moved. Okay, so everyone.

When we move, we are always amazed at how much junk we have acquired. I have found that about every 6 months, I can find a couple of boxes to sell online of things that we never use. This not only gives you so extra quick cash, but it also keeps your house more tidy and organized.

Now, go clean out that garage!

7. Amazon Subscribe and Save

32! That is how many items I have setup on amazon subscribe and save. Let me explain.

This sounds expensive, I know. But it actually saves us hundreds of dollars per year! We all need toothpaste, shampoo, razors, laundry detergent, toilet paper right? This feature is truly a triple threat. When you have more than 5 items on subscribe and save, you automatically unlock the max savings for every product on your list. This can be up to 20% per item!

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Now, even better is that it ships straight to your door on the exact day you want the item, maybe monthly or maybe you only need it every 4 months. This way, you never have too much or never run out. Either way, it’s totally customizable.

Lastly, there is no contract for any items, which means you can switch brands or items at any given time at no cost. My advice: every single staple item should be on your subscribe and save.

8. Rewards

This may ruffle some feathers, but if you are using your debit card for purchases, you are missing out on free money! We have this notion that credit cards are evil but in reality, they are the same piece of plastic as your debit card.

How you use it can be bad, don’t get me wrong. But if you want my opinion though, ditch the debit card and get a rewards credit card. Use it just like you would your debit card and make sure to pay it off as soon as the statement comes in!

Just to give you an idea of how powerful this can be in terms of money, here are some things that our miles have paid for:

  • 4 nights in Vail with Flight
  • Rental car in Vail (convertible might I add)
  • Flight to Ireland
  • Flight to Hawaii
  • Multiple staycations at very nice Hotels

That’s roughly about 7 thousand dollars in travel expenses so far! Remember that the credit card is just a tool and can be one that benefits you if you use it wisely. Ironically, this can be an effective way to save money.

Pro tip: If you don’t trust yourself carrying around a credit card, then set up all your monthly bills with your credit and leave it in a drawer at home. This way, you rack up miles but don’t get tempted to overspend.

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9. Vacation With Friends

Now, I know travel is hard right now but what a perfect time to go grab an Airbnb in the woods with a couple of friends and detox from the world right now!

Vacationing alone can be pricey and get rather boring quickly, but if you split lodging and set out for a road trip, it can become affordable quickly! For a couple of hundred bucks apiece, you can have one of the most relaxing vacations ever. Don’t forget to pick up your food at the local grocery store to avoid eating out every meal!

10. Make a Budget

When is the last time you updated your budget or made one for that matter? Making a budget is like writing down your goals. If you don’t make a budget, then you will struggle to save.

How can you know if you are spending wisely if you are not tracking everything?

Our advice would be to get a finance app like Mint, Every dollar, or personal capital. All these apps are free and do a tremendous job of tracking spending and budgeting. I still am old-school and have an excel spreadsheet which I do highly recommend.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

The entire goal is to boost your bank account while reducing the effort required. Efficiency is the name of the game, and automation is the key player. Luckily, we live in a world that has more perks than we can ever take advantage of. But if I were to choose a few, it would be the ones above.

Taking on all 10 of these steps may seem a little daunting. You can first try to pick three of your favorite and start there. Saving money doesn’t have to be a chore as long. As we use the tools correctly, it can be quite effortless. And now, you have a great blueprint to get started!

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Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

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