By Kevin Whipps
It’s the holiday season, and of course we’re all looking forward to hanging out with our friends and family, and maybe taking in a drumstick or two. But some people aren’t so lucky and don’t get the chance to see their families during December. Sometimes, not at all.

That’s why it’s important to remember to help those less fortunate than us. Often we say to ourselves that someday we’ll do that, but just not right now, we’re too “busy.” But it’s the holidays season now, and it’s time to put up or shut up. So how do you find a charity that works for you and will help people out? Let’s give you a few tips.

Look Inside

When it comes with finding a charity to work with, you have to first start with what you want to support. To do that, take a look inside and see what works for you.

Maybe you have a mother who was a victim of breast cancer, or a friend who lived on the streets at one point in their life. Point is, we’ve all known or been someone who needs some kind of assistance, and if we have the ability to help someone in a similar situation, this is a great time to do so.

Find a charity that relates to your personal experiences. Then narrow it down even further if possible. For example, maybe that friend who lived on the streets did so in your hometown. Look for a charity that helps people in that specific region, that way you’re directly affecting change. You can also go the other direction and expand your search. If your mother had breast cancer but you want to support cancer survivors at large, look at that as a charity option. Either way, you’ve started with a focus, and picked a charity based on that.

Find the Givers

Some people don’t donate to charity because they’re concerned about where their money goes. In some scenarios, a charity may be founded towards one specific cause, but the problem is that they don’t donate 100% of the proceeds towards said goal. That’s fine, charities need to raise operational costs too, but it’s when the percentage rates start getting lower and lower that some start to get concerned.

Do some research online to determine what charities in your focus exist, then narrow it down based on some of their specifics. For example, make sure the charity is a registered public charity, meaning it has 501(c)(3) status. Without it, you could be giving money to a scam. Make sure the organization has a history of doing good deeds and actually giving their money away. And whatever you do, don’t just give money to someone who calls you up on the phone and asks for it in the name of someone, who knows who they actually are.

This all comes down to properly researching your charity of choice. As long as you’re comfortable with giving your money to them after doing your homework, you’ll be alright.

Consider Alternatives

At the end of the day, cash is king with most charities. By giving them your money, they can designate where it goes and how it gets spent — it’s their job, so they’re good at it.

But there are other options for specific organizations. Goodwill takes all sorts of stuff, particularly clothes and other household items. Some groups take old automobiles as credit, which comes in handy if you find yourself with a vehicle that you can’t trade in or inherited from a friend or family member. Canned goods also work with the right charity, so stock up if that’s your goal.

Stay Local or Go National

Think about who lives in your area. Maybe you’re in a rural community with a volunteer fire department and a local sheriff who watches the town. Or say you live in a huge city with millions of people, where you pass the less fortunate on your way to work. Think locally, then start to look at a local charity that can help people near you.

Or, consider the opposite direction. Larger problems — cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis — are nationwide issues, and therefore need nationwide help. Look outside of your comfort zone to see what you can find.

Whatever You Do, Give

After doing your homework, determining your cause and going through everything else, the important thing to do is give. Who knows, someday you may be on the receiving end  and need some help yourself, so give now while you can.

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