Charities are a lot like high school students. Some are really driven, some are eccentric, some are steady and consistent, and others are just jerks who take your money but don’t use it wisely (or give it back!).

Americans contribute more than $300 billion per year plus $260 billion in volunteer time making the U.S. the largest charitable sector in the world. With 1.1 million charities to choose from, it can be challenging to decide who to give to and how much to give.

Interesting facts:

  • 2/3 of all donors report doing no research at all on their charitable contributions
  • Only 5% perform two or more hours of research
  • On average, Americans spend about 4x as long researching television purchases and 8x as long researching computer purchases than they do with more expensive investments like charitable contributions
  • Some of us even avoid researching on purpose to refrain from learning concerning facts about the charities we’ve chosen to give to
There are health benefits to giving. Numerous studies continue to demonstrate that altruistic people live longer, healthier and happier lives. By giving you’ll be less of a financial burden on your families and on society. Take advantage of good karma and give a little.
People often ask me why I volunteer and give to charities. I think they expect me to say it’s because I think I’m making a difference or because it makes me feel good about myself. There’s probably a little truth to those statements but the majority of  it comes down to two reasons:
  • If I can do it, so can you! Hey, I’m just a small town girl who grew up in the middle of South Dakota. I’m not “outdoorsy” and I get nervous when I’m in new environments just like everyone else. If I can step out of my comfort zone and try to make the world a little bit more equal so can you. Take your talents and use them in a place where someone really wants and needs to learn from you (don’t think too much about it or you’ll talk yourself out of it). My hope is that you will be encouraged to find your own project and feel confident taking it on.
  • I’ve been able to witness the impact that contributions can make to an organization and I’ve seen  improvements made even with small donations. I’ve also had the privilege of meeting some of the most amazing, courageous people on the planet through my work and travel. Making contributions to an organization ensures these wonderful people can have the same necessities we’ve been provided (i.e. water).
Give to an organization you feel strongly about and research them thoroughly (to avoid the jerks).
Charity Navigator is a great first step in assessing the charity of your choice. It focuses on financial health, accountability and transparency on a 4-star scale. If the charity you’re interested in is a 3 or 4 star charity and spends over 75% on its programming that’s a good benchmark for success.
Charity Watch is a watchdog that gives ratings to charities (A-F). It’s not as comprehensive as Charity Navigator but it’s a good website to verify the nonprofit’s accounting and reporting are complete and the charity isn’t trying to hide any financial blunders.


In taking my own advice I tend to give to charities I am closely associated with who have a long history of success. Hospital Albert Schweitzer is our partner hospital in Haiti and is very successful in their mission to take care of patients. For a list of other organizations check out my Causes page. One of my favorite humanitarians, Nicholas Kristof, also has a great gift giving guide to help you choose the charity that’s right for you.
charities definition
Diversity and unity


  • Giving is good for you (and them)
  • Don’t give your money to jerks, research charities out first
  • Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone and help someone across the street or across the globe
  • And remember, don’t compare what or how much you’re doing to others, instead just focus on doing your own thing one step at a time