The first time my husband brought home the Combined Federal Campaign’s booklet listing hundreds of nonprofit organizations, I didn’t know where to begin. We knew we wanted to donate some money to a cause that we believed in, but which organization was the right cause for us? Was it only one organization or did we want to divide our donation between several different charities?
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself and your military spouse before making a donation to a charity through the CFC.
What are your passions?
When I was the CFC key worker for my office in Okinawa, I always told each person that I couldn’t advise them on which organizations to give money too. Instead I would ask them:
- What are your passions?
- When you watch the news, which stories grab your attention?
Your answers will lead you to charities working on those social causes.
What tugs at your heart strings?
There are 2 organizations that my husband and I always give money to: Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Autism Speaks. The reasons are simple. My grandmother died from breast cancer when she was 62 years old. My 13-year-old nephew was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old. Both of these diseases, breast cancer and autism, have personally touched our lives. We pray that a cure is found for both diseases. In addition we donate money for research working to find these cures.
Who do I want to help?
When you think about populations that are in need of assistance, which are the groups that you want to support? For example, you may be sympathetic toward homeless veterans. Then you would want to search the term “homeless” in the CFC’s 2015 Universal Giving Charity Listing. You can easily browse a list of potential charities you will want to donate money to through the CFC.
Which nonprofit organizations have you personally utilized?
I listen to National Public Radio. Every. Single. Day. It’s a service I utilize and therefore, I feel obligated to donate to this organization.
Which charities have been you used in the past? Did you love the Budget for Baby class offer by the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society? Do you always hang out at the USO lounge during layovers at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport? Send a little love to these charities that helped you in the past so that they can help you again in the future.
When was the last time you Googled this organization?
All the charities participating in the CFC have been screened by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and must be registered 501(c)(3) charities. They are also reviewed annually “for evidence that they are providing services on a local, state, national or international level and meeting the standards of public and financial accountability.”
But this federal paperwork doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a recent scandal involving your favorite charity. Take 2 minutes and Google each potential charity before finalizing your donation.
How is this charity managing their donations?
One of the things I love about Charity Navigator is that you can examine the financial health of CFC-participating charities. Charity Navigator says that “the majority of charities listed on our site-seven out of ten nonprofits-spend at least 75% of their expenses directly on their programs. That means the organization should spend no more than 25% of their total expenses on administrative overhead and fundraising costs combined.”
For me, that’s critical. I want to know that the majority of the money I donate is going to help people, not support a six-figure salary for the charity’s CEO or a national advertising campaign.
Do you want to donate locally or globally or somewhere in-between?
If you’re stationed overseas, you may want to consider donating to your installation’s Family Support & Youth Programs (FSYP) funds through the CFC. These undesignated contributions go directly toward programs that aim to improve the experience of service members and their families living overseas. FSYP funds free sport programs for military children and language classes for spouses. Donating to the FSYP is a great way to give locally and give back to military families. You can only give to the FSYP if you’re stationed overseas.
For the rest of us, think about if you want to donate to international organization like UNICEF or a local organization like the Fort Hood Fisher House. Not sure? Go back and review your passions.
One quick note: this year is the second year that the CFC is conducting what it calls Universal Giving. This means that you can donate to any local charity listed in the CFC charity list. In the past CFC donors were restricted to local charities at their duty stations. Universal Giving allows service members to donate to a local charity in their hometowns when they are stationed across the country.
If you’re considering a local charity, is this an organization you would rather donate your time than your money?
Nearly every charity is looking for volunteers and perhaps that’s a better route for you if you’re living paycheck to paycheck. You can still research these charities through the CFC to ensure that you are volunteering with a legitimate organization.
Which charity did you donate to last year?
I know several service members who asked themselves these first 8 questions and researched their CFC charities the first time they donated a percentage of their paycheck. The next year, they didn’t reinvent in the wheel. They simply renewed their donations through the CFC to the same charities the next year. They know that long-term support to their favorite charities is a great feel-good investment.
How much do you want to donate?
The CFC offers a convenient way to make a donation to your favorite charity through direct withdrawal from your paycheck. You can do a small amount per period ($5) knowing that your donation will add up to a significant impact. You can also do a one-time donation. The choice is yours.
The 2015 CFC solicitation period lasts until December 15. Make your 2015 CFC donation today.