Giving Back During the Holidays

Although many of you may think that this time of year is all about getting together with your family, exchanging gifts, and eating as much as your sweatpants will allow, it’s also about giving back during the holidays and spreading some joy and goodwill into the world.

Giving back has always been a big part of my upbringing, starting with my mom donating money to our church every Sunday during the weekly offering. When I moved out and started making a real pay cheque, I wanted to make sure I followed suit. For the past couple of years around Christmastime I always make a point of choosing a charity I feel passionate about, then donating a lump sum of money to it.

Usually I choose a charity that I’m familiar with, but I’ve always been curious about how far my dollar actually goes when my cheque’s been deposited. How much does that charity spend on administration fees? Is my money really helping a child eat and go to school? Is this organization actually legit?

Luckily, I stumbled upon this handy news article all about naughty and nice charities, which in turn directed me to the CRA’s website. Not only is it astounding to see how many charities exist, but it’s scary to see how many have had their registrations revoked or penalized! What I liked best about the site is that when you click on a charity, you can find out how much that charity raked in the year prior, and most importantly where it all went.

For instance, I’ve never been a big fan of World Vision Canada because I feel like they should spend less money on commercials and more money on actually helping those in need. However, they apparently only spend 5% on administration fees which is pretty low for a charity.

Then again, when you dig a bit deeper, you can see that there are ten full-time employees who make between $120,000 – $200,000 per year. I just don’t understand how someone can make that much money while working for an organization that’s all about ending poverty and hunger around the world?

Another charity that’s very close to me and my HB’s hearts is the MS Society of Canada. Unfortunately, after looking at their financials, they only put 50% of their donations towards programs, but spend 40% on fundraising efforts. So basically they spend half of the money they get on trying to get more money? That just doesn’t seem right to me.

There are of course many other ways you can give back without giving money, such as volunteering, buying a gift for a toy drive, donating blood or your organs, or giving away some of your household goods. But if you are interested in donating some money to a worthy cause, make sure you’re smart with your money and have the facts first.

Remember my post about how breast cancer charities and its sponsors may be more hype than help? Well, the Breast Cancer Society of Canada only spends 2% of its donations on charitable programs, but 63% of its money goes towards gifts to other registered charities. Hmm…I think I might be crossing that one-off my possible-charities-to-donate-to list.

Is giving back during the holidays something you do every year?

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Showing 27 comments
  • Rob
    Reply

    “Do you give back during the holidays?”

    Yep, through our church donations – both at this time of year as well as regularly all year through weekly donations. What goes around comes around. And those Salvation Army peeps really go the extra mile, especially standing around outside collecting. Cold enough for you this week in TO, Jessica? 🙂

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      It’s definitely cold enough for me haha! And ya, props to anyone who stands outside in the cold gathering donations. I don’t know if I could do it.

  • Elroy
    Reply

    I give generously throughout the year. At least I think it is generously.

    We just bought a house and we had a guy show up trying to collect money the old owners owed him. He didn’t ask us for money, he didn’t even know the old owners flew the coup. His english wasn’t the best, and he had trouble communicating with my wife. When I realized it was only $160, I felt that I should help him out. And he was grateful. A little Christmas spirit from this scrooge.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Giving throughout the year is definitely important. Every bit helps!

  • Reply

    Not only do I try to make sure I’m not giving to fraudulent or mismanaged charities, but I also try to give to charities that are fully in line with ideals I support. The Salvation Army, for instance has a history of anti-gay and anti-muslim sentiment, hence, I chose to donate elsewhere.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Interesting, I didn’t know that. It’s definitely important to do your research about an organization before handing over your hard earned cash.

  • Done by Forty
    Reply

    Good on you for giving more during the holidays. We do, typically, but don’t know if we will this year. I suck at giving.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      You could always donate your time somewhere? It’s free but just as helpful. 🙂

  • Kali @ CommonSenseMillennial
    Reply

    We try to give all year long to our local animal rescues. That’s always been a cause close to my heart – animal welfare – and we try our best to support rescues and shelters when we can. I think it’s smart to do your research, though, as you pointed out.. unfortunately, there are charitable causes that simply don’t use their cash donations as wisely or efficiently as they could/ I don’t think many people have purposely bad intentions, just poor management or execution of actionable goals to make sure as much money as possible is going to people (and animals) in need.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      It’s so true. Some charities may have a great cause behind them, but if they are mismanaged, I certainly don’t want to give them my money.

  • Cassie
    Reply

    I have a bit of a multipronged approach. My employer supports United Way, which had variable admin costs depending on what area of the country you’re in. They offer the option of dedicating your donation to the charity of your choice, so I did that this year. Every pay period next yearI’m donating $20 to them. $18 is going to the Edmonton Food Bank, and $2 goes to United Way.

    Outside of that, I donated about $30 worth of food to our department’s Christmas Hamper, and I helped deliver it last weekend. I also donate food to the Food Bank bins at the grocery store, and I spent a couple hours last week wrapping gifts for Santas Anonymous. They’re not huge donations, but a little bit can sometimes go a long way.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      That’s awesome! My mom used to always donate food to the Food Bank whenever we went to the grocery store. I should start doing that too.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty
    Reply

    You’re right….there are plenty of places to donate. Personally I am skipping the Salvation Army this year since they came out publicly against homosexuality. I wish that charities would keep their personal opinions to themselves…and just focus on the good work they do!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I agree with that. It’s sad that some organizations focus on things that aren’t important or good for the greater cause.

  • Ryan @ Impersonal Finance
    Reply

    I love giving back, but I’m afraid too much of my inner cynic has invaded. It’s great to feel like you’re doing well by giving to a charity, but I would rather KNOW I’m doing well by giving to a particular charity. I would hate for my donation to wind up as a gift basket as a thank you to some executive somewhere. We do make contributions to the United Way each pay period, just like Cassie (taken directly from the paycheck), and our department at work adopts a family each Christmas. Thanks for posting!

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I know what you mean. I like to see know exactly where my money is going, and sometimes that’s just not possible when donating to certain organizations. I would hate to think that my $100 is going towards some exec’s huge paycheque.

  • Michelle @ fitnpoor.com
    Reply

    We only give to charities that we are actively a part of- like our church or the animal rescue I’m a board member for. When we give to other charities, we always check their background as well as their beliefs. There are certain major charities out there that are against certain people or things and that keeps us from donating.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      I think that’s the best way to go. When you are involved in a charity or organization it’s easier to see where your donations are going and to make sure it’s a good place to give money too.

  • Jen @ Frugal Rules
    Reply

    Seriously??? Some charitable institutions operate that way? I hope there is not too many of them or people might find out and have second thoughts giving or donating.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Ya it’s scary how some charities operate, which is why I always try to do my due diligence before donating money.

  • Cait Flanders
    Reply

    I had no idea this site existed – thank you for opening my eyes to it! I wrote earlier this week that I would be giving $75/month to three Canadian charities in 2014, and it’s great to see that 2 of the 3 are on MoneySense’s list. While the Love of Reading Foundation is not, I’ve always known they only have 2 staff, and the list showed me they spend 83% on charitable programs. Love it.

    • Jessica Moorhouse
      Reply

      Yay! That’s awesome that you’re setting it up as part of your monthly budget too. Great idea!

  • catherine
    Reply

    Very interesting. I also am weary about who I ”donate” to. This year we opted to ”adopt a senior” at a local retirement home where we picked three angels off a tree with basic info (M or F and an idea for gift (scarf, perserves etc) so we adopted 3 seniors and gave a giftcard to a family at church so they could buy a dinner. I prefer to keep things local.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter
    Reply

    Can I suggest that you listen to a TED talk by Dan Pallotta called “Do We Have the Wrong Idea About Charity?”? There’s more to salaries than an expectation that everyone should work for peanuts.
    My question about the Breast Cancer Society is which charities do they give the money to? The United Way, for example, is a charity which is designed to funnel money to other charities and I would not be surprised if the Breast Cancer Society does similar; most of their mandate is awareness and fundraising.

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