How to make the best of your charity giving

How to make the best of your charity giving

Last Thursday, I attended a private charity event, and sat at the Media Table.

It was a fundraiser organised by Wencheng Gongzhu Malaysia for the recent earthquake affected children. It was an event attended by His Eminence Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, His Excellency The Ambassador of Nepal to Malaysia Dr Niranjan MS Basnyat and Datuk Lee Chong Wei who donated his racket for the auction. An event hosted by Mr Lai Voon Hon of Aloft KualaLumpur Sentral, it was a night where family and friends came together and showed their charitable nature.

Anyway, I was inspired to write an article about “Why You Should Give to Charity”.

But then I realized that it wasn’t necessary. Malaysians are already very charitable.

Anytime there’s a disaster (or funeral), I see donation drives being organized, and people quickly taking action. Heck, even when the Government was dragging its feet over the Rohingya boat people, NGOs were already working to help them. And Malaysia was recently ranked as the 7th most charitable nation in the world.

So I decided to take a different approach to this one. Since we’re already such giving people, here are my thoughts on how to maximize your charitable efforts. For both you, and the people who need your help.

1. Cash is King

Notice how charities always ask for money?

There’s a reason why they usually don’t want old clothes, used items, or excess food. It’s not that they’re entitled snobs. In fact — sometimes they’ll take these, but money is infinitely more useful to charities than “stuff”.

Because they have bills to pay. Lots of them.

“Stuff” may seem like a good idea to donate — when viewed from the comfort of our own homes: “Oh maybe some lucky poor girl will have use for my favorite cocktail dress from fifteen years ago.”

Yeah. For the dance party that she’s never going to attend right?

Acts of service might seem like a good idea too: “I’m gonna go visit the orphanage and paint some smiles on the children’s faces.” Commendable, but not very effective if the kids don’t have enough to eat.

This isn’t to discourage you from giving your time, effort and goods to charity. If it can help someone — please do it. Just understand that most charities’ biggest struggle is exactly like yours and mine: making more money.

2. Research Your Target Before You Give

“But what if I’m not rich, and how do I know they’ll use the money properly?”

The answer to the first question is that every bit helps. Doesn’t matter if your donation is just five bucks. It helps too.

And the second question? It’s true — some lousy charities have made news for giving very little to the under-privileged. Instead, they spend lots of money on marketing, administrative costs, and paying overblown salaries.

We don’t want that.

When we pay hundred bucks to charity, we want all hundred bucks to go to food for disaster-struck Nepalese children right?

But in reality, there will be some deductions. Some fees and charges to the bank, some money to pay their staff, and some for boring administrative stuff like office rent.

That’s OK, as long as they keep their costs low, and the majority of funds go to the people.

The watchdog CharityWatch recommends only donating to charities that give more than 75% of donations collected to people.

If you’re not sure how your prospective charity target will use your money, do some research via Google to check. That should give you some comfort that they’re not going to blow it on an overpaid CEO’s salary.

So I am glad to know that Wencheng Gongzhu Malaysia will be giving away all of the money collected to 17 more earthquake affected areas and also to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund on the 13th Juen 2015.

3. Don’t Pay Tax on Your Donations.

Since you’re already researching your target charity, make sure you also check if they’re approved by the Inland Revenue Board (IRB).

That way, you can claim tax deductions on the money you’ve donated.

Let’s say you have a 15% tax rate, and you donate RM 1,000 to charity each month. Based on your RM 12,000 yearly contribution, you’ve just avoided RM 1,800 of tax.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t give to charities who aren’t “approved” by the IRB though.

Lots of deserving, smaller charities aren’t on the approved list. If you feel strongly for their causes, please continue to give to them.

But if you’re already giving (or planning to give) to a charity that is registered, make sure you ask for an official receipt. So you can file it in your taxes next year.

You can find the list of registered charities with the IRB here.

4. Share it Loud

There’s another thing most Malaysians are, besides charitable. They’re humble. And I believe most of our people would be shy to announce their contributions to charity: “No need to let the whole world know. Just between me and God.”

But charities need people to hear about them. They need exposure to as many people as possible for free.

Maybe you don’t need to share exactly how much you’re giving, and how much you’re doing for charity. That would seem like bragging, wouldn’t it? But you can definitely share with your Facebook friends that you’re involved in a charity. And ask them to help too.

Every time I post something about charity on my own page, I’m always touched by the amount of generosity my friends show.

And if you’re not already involved in a charity effort, but see something worthy on your friend’s Facebook feed? Share it too. Help spread the news, and you might just inspire someone who can give a lot more than you.

That’s giving too.

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Pic Credit: Charity Bank by fhwrdh on Flickr

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