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Consumer Reports: Maximizing what you give to charity

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Posted at 8:36 AM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 09:36:13-05

(CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF)  — The holidays, of course, are a time of giving – giving to family, friends and often to charity. With so many people affected by the pandemic, giving to others might be even more important this year.

However, before you open your wallet to give, Consumer Reports has some ways you can maximize your contribution.

The Gullotta House charity in New York has given out more than 100,000 meals since the start of the pandemic. “Since the pandemic. We help everyone. There are people coming in nice cars, not so nice cars, people walking. We don’t judge a book by its cover. We all have bad days. We all are going through something,” said Matt Gullotta.

If you’d like to help, organizations are ready to put your energy or money to use. But there are some things to consider.

“Charities differ a lot in how much of the money they raise goes for programs instead of covering the expense of raising money. Effective charities devote much more of their operating budget to the services they provide than to their other expenditures, like salaries and marketing costs,” said Margot Gillman, Consumer Reports Editor.

You can find charities that meet those benchmarks on Charity Navigator on the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. Be sure to check the charity’s own website for information about its mission, a list of the board of directors and its latest financial reports.

“If the charity site doesn’t list its financial details online, the organization is not very transparent, which could be a red flag,” said Gillman.

Also, watch for fees. Online giving platforms and crowdfunding websites are popular, but they often charge payment processing fees, perhaps 3% or more – that’s money that isn’t going to charity.

Instead, consider giving the old-fashioned way with cash or a check.And as Gullotta House knows, many families are experiencing food insecurity. A recent CR survey found one in five American shoppers has had to turn to a foodbank since the start of the pandemic.

If you’re considering giving to a foodbank, Consumer Reports says to prioritize cash over cans. Food banks welcome most donated food, but monetary donations may have a bigger impact. That’s because food banks can buy food wholesale and in bulk. And if you don’t have extra money to give this holiday season, consider donating your time.

“It’s all about giving back to your community. Neighbors helping neighbors. We’re all in this together,” said Gullata.

If you'd like to find a volunteer opportunity, you can go to VolunteerMatch.org or contact Hands On Nashville at HON.org. The Last-Minute Store is also still looking for volunteers and donations. Click here for more information.