The Charity Dilemma: Small Donations to Many or Large Donations to a Few?

Recently, my wife and I took account of all of our charitable spending. Over the last year, we’ve donated small amounts ($10-$50) to many different charities, a list that was almost shocking in length when we finally examined all of them together. Our total charitable spending was an amount we were comfortable with, but we wondered to ourselves whether or not one large donation to one charity we both cared about and were sure was a legitimate and healthy charity.

One big reason why we feel that the small donations are fine is that most charities are based on a model of receiving a lot of small donations. Their organizations assume – and operate – on the basis that there will be many out there like me and my wife,

Another benefit of the small donations is that we can support a lot of organizations that we believe in. There are many, many charities and organizations out there that we believe in and agree with the concept behind, and thus there are many that we have interest in supporting financially.

Even given those ideas, however, we’re leaning towards reducing the number of our charitable donations significantly in the coming year (down to just a very tiny handful), and donating much larger amounts to these charities. Here’s why.

The charities that we are most strongly tied to are either highly local or tied closely to our family. These charities are extremely involved on the local level, facilitating positive social work in the community itself instead of on a broader scale. They provide the opportunity for us to directly witness our dollars at work, as well as donate our own time if we so wish.

These charities tend to be much smaller than other charities. In one case, it is an organization that provides fulfilling living conditions for physically and mentally handicapped people in a specific community. In another case, a small, independent food pantry that provides food to people below certain incomes that actually work for a living – they target minimum wage earners with families, mostly, and provide them quite a bit of free, fresh food. In both cases, the organizational structure behind each of these is small.

These charities also enable us (and very close relatives of ours) to directly donate time and talent, as well. In every case, the charities are local enough that my wife and I – or members of our immediate families – can directly volunteer or work for these groups. This means that we have the clear opportunity to do even more than before – and spend our volunteer time and money working for the same goals.

In my eyes, the benefit of supporting local charities is the greatest of all because you can directly witness their good work – and even participate with your own effort quite easily. Because of this, our charitable donations next year will be much larger and focused on small organizations within communities where my family and I can potentially not just make a financial contribution, but a personal one as well.

I guess, in the end, Your Money or Your Life had a broader impact on me than I would have ever guessed.