How to Find a Charity to Support

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How to Find a Charity to Support

Americans gave $373 billion to charity in 2015 — more than seven times the total amount in 1961 — with religious charities, educational institutions and health organizations picking up the bulk of the cash. With so many good causes out there — the National Center for Charitable Statistics says there are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone — things can get a little confusing. Here's how to find a good cause to support.

What Charities Do Americans Support?

There are lots of reasons why Americans donate money to charitable causes. They can help someone in need, bring more meaning to their life, promote generosity and motivate family and friends. People don't have to donate a lot of cash. Just $3.65 every month supports a starving child, says Food for the Poor — a Christian charity that provides meals, medicine, and shelter to people in Latin American and the Caribbean. Alternatively, donors can give clothing, furniture and household goods to a charity like the Salvation Army.

United Way Worldwide, Task Force for Global Health, Feeding America and Salvation Army are the four largest nonprofits in the U.S. However, there are loads of smaller charities that serve good causes. In recent years, crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe raise money from events, with donations going to charitable organizations.

Picking a Charity

Prospective donors should choose a charity they have a personal connection with or one that resonates with them. "Clarify your values. Do this before you open your checkbook, volunteer your time or look at that letter from a charity," says GuideStar, an information service that connects donors with nonprofit organizations. "Ask yourself, 'What is important to me?' The environment? Education? Hunger? Animal welfare? Helping sick children?"

People should also choose a charity that makes it easy to donate funds. Most nonprofits let donors make regular payments online or via SMS. Millennials have changed the way charities accept contributions from the general public. Online donations made up 7.2 percent of all fundraising in 2016, while 17 percent of donations came from a mobile device. Moreover, services like Be a Doer let people organize fundraising and volunteering campaigns online quickly.

What Charities Do Celebrities Support?

Celebrities and public figures often raise awareness about good causes. Prospective givers might want to support the same nonprofit their favorite celebrity supports. Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, for example, supports 31 charities, according to website Look to the Stars. These include the Cancer Research Institute, Children in Need, GRAMMY Foundation and Red Cross. Musician Drake, on the other hand, helps Thorn, a charity that develops technology to fight child exploitation and human trafficking.

Some people are wary of celebrities who promote good causes. Todd Krim, who founded website Hollywood Gives Back, says there's no need to be suspicious: "Ninety-percent of the time, it's a genuine interest. Maybe sometimes people might think it's a good idea for their image but most of the time it's a genuine interest. In fact, there's a lot of celebrities who do charity work who don't even want cameras around."

Choosing a charity to support seems like a challenge. But finding the right one can help people in need. Donors should pick a nonprofit organization based on their personal values and look to their favorite celebrities for a little inspiration.