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The Most Bang for Your Donated Buck

The most viral video in history exploded onto the national scene on March 5th and captivated people (including us!) for 30 minutes, reaching 100 million views in just six days. In the world we live in today, it pays to be technologically savvy. Add in a passionate and attractive speaker (and his super cute kid!) going up against a war criminal in Africa and you've created the picture perfect charitable organization. If all charities called the world to action like the Kony 2012 campaign hitting the world right now, charitable giving would seem like a more manageable idea in a nation plagued with recession.

What amazes us most about this video is how it could be so long -- really a "short film" -- and keep people watching the entire time. In a world of 140 character news bulletins (aka tweets) and the decline of long form news, this 30 minute video had most people glued to their computer through the end. Whether you were alerted by Twitter or Google trending or by world of mouth or local or national news, you've undoubtedly heard of this movement by now and how it has young people everywhere joining together and supporting a cause -- whether by action or monetary donation. The Invisible Children movement calls first for awareness. Secondly, it encourages people to purchase "action packs " including two Kony 2012 bracelets, an action guide, posters, buttons, and a t-shirt for $30. Or, donate a few dollars a month, and you get an action kit for free. If you haven't seen it, check it out below:

Unfortunately, as with every good idea, there are skeptics. But it is through this skepticism that we can gain a clearer picture of an organization and their mission. In the case of the Invisible Children, how much of each person's $30 or monthly donation is actually going to help directly stop the war criminal Joseph Kony? You can read a blog post explaining the Invisible Children financials here, as well as their mission statement and goals. Understanding an organization's mission is the quite possibly the most important part of aligning yourself with a charity. The difference between awareness and actual action is a line that can often be blurred, and it is something to consider when researching a non-profit.

Finding the right NGO for you is tough. There are over a million out there for a number of worthy causes. The hard part is choosing what you are most passionate about, and then deciding who deserves your hard earned cash. Who is going to spend that money wisely, and even more noteworthy, spend the largest percentage of your dollar on the actual cause? An efficient charity is more elusive than you'd think, so we've compiled a list of some of the most efficient large charities and some of the least efficient large charities. Our research was largely taken from CharityNavigator.org, America's leading independent charity evaluator and Forbes.

So before you hand over your next paycheck to the Invisible Children, check out this short list. They are also mostly large national organizations, and we understand your local food bank may be more efficient than some of the big guys.

Operation Compassion: Operation Compassion covers all areas of need and still manages to be efficient. They respond to natural disasters worldwide, helping to mobilize churches, individuals and community groups to provide food and basic necessities for the poor, widows, and children.

Brother's Brother Foundation: Located in Pittsburgh, this foundation extends its hands to help everyone in need. They promote international health and education through the distribution of donated medical, education, agricultural, and other resources.

Donors Choose: Whether you have children or not, Donors Choose is a great place to help out public schools. Teachers post requests for supplies for school projects ranging from pencils to microscopes, so choose locally or choose a story that inspires you and give what you can.

LEAST EFFICIENT:

Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.
Paralyzed Veterans of America
The Girl Scouts

What did you think of the Kony video? How do you check out a charity before deciding to give, and who is your favorite recipient of your hard earned cash? Let us know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Tessa McLean

38 Responses to “The Most Bang for Your Donated Buck”

  1. You are right. There are many worthy charities out there. I felt I had to tell you of mine – the Loyal Order of Moose. We have helped nearly twelve thousand children whose parents can’t or won’t take care of them.

    We do this with no government funding and we support our seniors as well.

    We call ourselves the best kept secret in America. Check us out!

    • Brittni says:

      Thanks, Larry. We’ll check it out. What do you think of the Kony sensation?

      • I am glad to hear that this organization is out there. I firmly believe in helping other countries; but more and more those in our own communities need that little helping hand

    • Pat Pittman says:

      I would also like to mention the Lions Clubs. They are an international charitable organization and the only one with a seat at the United Nations. We were charged by Helen Keller to be “Knights for the Blind”. We provide glasses and eye exams for people who can’t afford them. We use Pedia-Vision to test pre-schoolers for an eye disease that if not detected by age 5 it’s permanent. There are funds for disaster relief and other needy causes. 100% of the money we collect at White Cane day and selling blind-made brooms is used in our community.

      Secretary
      (Hampton) Northampton Lions Club (in Virginia)

      • kath says:

        I will attest to the great work of the lions club. Every year they would play Santa to my daughter’s special needs school for those of us that were unable to get our kids to see Santa any where else. They were the kindest most generous group and made my daughter so happy.

        • Pat Pittman says:

          Thank you, Kath! We also help with cornea transplants (Eastern Va Medical School has an eyebank in Norfolk, VA.) and cataract surgeries for those who need them but can’t afford them.

          Pat

      • Tessa from BradsDeals says:

        Thanks Pat! We’ll have to check out the Lions Clubs

  2. Debi Lesko says:

    I’ve never thought of The Girl Scouts as a charity. Perhaps they may be a non-profit organization, but isn’t there a difference between the two?

    • Brittni says:

      Hey Debi! The point we were making with that is that in terms of donations, they are notoriously one of the least efficient when it comes to spending the money donated on their actual cause.

    • Sharon Bond says:

      Hi Debi,

      I’ve done public relations work for Giving USA Foundation and its parent organization, Giving Institute, for years, and I definitely have become educated about non-profit organizations during that time!

      The terms “charity” and “non-profit” are pretty much interchangeable; these are the approximately 1.2 million million organizations that have filed paperwork with the IRS (and been approved) to be 501(c)3 organizations, meaning they can accept tax-exempt donations.

      The Girl Scouts are one such group, meaning if you wanted to, you could deduct from your taxes the cost of a box of cookies over and above their intrinsic value.

      Another term that gets bandied about is “NGO,” or non-governmental organization. You usually (but not always) see this term in reference to groups from outside the US, or that operate internationally. The term was first coined by the United Nations back in 1945. A lot of NGOs are government-funded, but they can usually still accept private donations.

      Confused yet? :)

      Hope this helps a little!

  3. Ruth Dejam says:

    I don’t understand what you’re point is? Is it that you don’t approve of Invisible Children? Although I don’t donate to Invisible Children because there are other charities I support that use their donations better, I’ve supported their cause against the LRA in Uganda for many years.
    What disturbs me the most about the the broohaha over Kony 2012 is that so far, the mainstream media made questionable accusations against IC and the Kony 2012 campaign but once they did their own homework and found the claims to be true, they stopped talking about it. Now there’s been a big hush.
    George Clooney got arrested today at the Sudanese Embassy in DC and that’s making big news. That’s another cuase I’ve supperted for many, many years long before George knew where Sudan was on a map.
    It all makes me sick. At this point, I really think the only place you can get semi-honest news is on The Daily Show.
    By the way, I’m 55, not 15.
    Probably way too much information than you were asking for…

    • Cyrice says:

      Thank You! Just because the majority of the public doesn’t understand, doesn’t mean that those of us that donate money, aren’t smart enough to investigate the cause. I think where or how the money is spent is a moot point. They’re doing something, which is more than most people. Regardless if one child is saved for every 100 that aren’t that’s one that nobody else cared to do anything about. It’s so easy to criticize, complain, and condemn.

  4. Debi Lesko says:

    Amen, Ruth!!

  5. Kat says:

    The Crohn’s $ Colitis Foundation is also a top charity. With 90% of funding going to education & patient support groups. CCFA also funds medical research grants hoping to find a cure for these disabling gastrointestinal diseases. Patient members do the majority of the fundraising.
    I don’t normally give to any cause without checking the money trail. I suggest your readers do the same.

  6. Kelley says:

    I agree that Kony is an evil force that needs to be stopped, but I don’t agree with how IC is doing it. Too much money to overhead, far too much to awareness campaigns and very little to where it is most needed. I did a little research and found this place.

    http://outreachuganda.org/zencart/

    I took the 30.oo IC was asking for and spent it on beads.

  7. Maxine Slater says:

    I use the BBB guides, Wise Giving, that are published 4 times a year to help me decide which charities to donate to! It has introduced me to several worthy ones, and kept me from donating to some that sounded appealing, but aren’t efficient!

    • Ruth Dejam says:

      The BBB isn’t the best place to get info from. Companies can choose to join or not and it costs money so many small organizations do not participate yet they ate the ones that need money more. Charity Navigator is a much better source.

  8. Annie Schaefer says:

    In light of recent events happening here in the US to our own children at risk, I am grateful you have mention a few places that will reliably help out the intended donors. I agree with many, I am not donating to any charity without checking out the money trail, and this one happens to be questionable.
    I really believe we need to focus more so on the home front these days, and while I feel the plight of such children mentioned in the Invisible Children video is unacceptable, Americans need to realize we can not police and fix the world’s ills, and charity really begins at home.
    Thank you Brad’s Deals for not only providing us with news about good deals on products we may need, but also extending the idea into considering where our charity is best used.

  9. Elnora says:

    Thanks for giving people a heads up on this, Brad’s Deals. It’s always good to be reminded to do our homework before donating.

    Thanks for the kick-ass deals, too!

  10. Tony says:

    I did donate $15 and that was the minimum to get their package …. I really like the approach to this situation , it was novel and fresh. We get email updates on what’s happening etc. I do not have the cash to donate to my charities anymore , so I do offer my time , which is just as good . I’ll be looking at the financing of this project as it progresses. If it should turn “turn sour”, I’ll hit up that cutie kid of his for my money back!:-)

    Thanks brads gang!

    Tony( NYC.)

    • Tessa from BradsDeals says:

      We definitely agree Tony! It was a great approach to a terrible situation! It’s great to see this kind of thing of the mind of America’s youth!

  11. David says:

    I’m not sure from where you got the information about the VFW, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Girl Scouts being the least efficient fundraisers. According to the CharityNavigator website, the top ten least efficient are:

    Rank Charity Fundraising Efficiency
    1 Cancer Survivors’ Fund $0.910
    2 The Committee for Missing Children $0.890
    3 Firefighters Charitable Foundation $0.870
    4 Children’s Charity Fund, Inc. $0.860
    5 Disabled Police Officers Counseling Center $0.860
    6 Operation Lookout $0.850
    7 California Police Youth Charities $0.840
    8 Shiloh International Ministries $0.840
    9 Wishing Well Foundation USA $0.820
    10 United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association $0.820

    None of the ones you cite are on the list. It’s easy to find. It’s under their Top Ten tab and at the bottom of the bar on the left side. What’s with the discrepancy? Seems a bit odd to speak poorly of veterans and girl scouts when the real list is out there and easy to find.

  12. Col says:

    I found the subject like of the most recent email (Kony 2012 alternatives) to be quite offensive. Why would you even address it? For those who look at the subject line and don’t take the time to read futher, the inference is that this is not a worthy project.

    I subscribed to this site to be advised of current bargains, not for you to offer advise as to what ’cause’ is or is not important or how my charitable dollars are best spent.

    • les says:

      Col;
      I couldn’t agree more.
      Please read my comment “what a low, cheap shot” right after yours. This was a transparently self evident and obviously miss directed attempt at capitalizing on a situation that is a hot button for every Thinking Moral, Human Being.. Brad’s will really have to step up to the plate to undo
      the lack of confidence that this attempt to gain monetarily from these poor unfortunate’s plight, has left us with.
      What barbaric A hole(s) is responsible for this and what will be done about it?

  13. les says:

    What a low, cheap shot.
    I deplore your
    Using the horrible exploitation of poor innocent children that are VIOLATED in INHUMANE and Unimaginably tortuous ways to gain more eyeballs on your website.. and more$$ in your already deep pockets
    Your altruistic guise is easily seen through and I am sure that you will hear about it from many that are not fooled as easily as you think!
    I hope that this backfires on your lowlife capitalist scheme in a big way!!
    I WAS a good customer until now!

    Bring me the head of the PR/Marketing/copywriter/ genius that executed this campaign and do us both a favor.
    There has to be a better way!

  14. Tessa from BradsDeals says:

    Hey les! We just wanted to get in on the discussion about Kony 2012 and had no other agenda except to inform people about worthy causes.

    • Col says:

      If that was really the reason, it was ill timed and poorly thought out. I’m disappointed and done.

    • Ruth Dejam says:

      If that turly was your agenda, it would have behooved you to have 2 sepatate discussions; one about the Kony 2012 campaign and another about charitable donations and made your accusations about Invisible Children (IC) in the charitable donations entry.

      If you wanted to talk about how IC spends their money (and clearly you don’t think education is a valuable thing), then it would have been nice if you had also pointed out that most charities (including Susan G Komen Foundation, Heart Association, PKD Foundation to name a few) spend between 60 – 75% of the money that’s earmarked as “going to the cause” on education, not the R&D to find a cure for their respective diseases.

      I absolutely think that education is very important and applaud all of their efforts but your commentary implies that this is not common practice and call IC out for what is otherwise, a normal thing to do.

      I would have thought you might want to educate your readers and explain how to use Charity Navigator (CN) would have been useful since you really should go beyond the star rating to learn about the charities. For example, Invisible Children has a 3 star rating which is the same as the organiztions you think are better. CN has a wealth of good, reliable information that’s updated constantly. It would help your readers to know how to use it too.

      As someone who spends a good amount of time actively working for causes I choose, I wish you guys would do the same. It’s not terrible if you don’t support the Kony campaign nor Invisible Children. We all have our preferences for causes we want to support. Do give us credit for being intelligent people, though.

      • Tessa from BradsDeals says:

        Hi Ruth! We do think that education is very important, and we want to clarify that we did not intend this post to come across as not supporting the Invisible Children. We simply pointed out that there had been skepticism surrounding the video, and suggested some other great organizations that accept donations as well.

  15. I have had the opportunity through the past few years to be of assistance to others; with these opportunities came enlightenment. All organizations that honestly help others, no matter of location, is a wonderful organization and worthy of donated money, materials, and time; unfortunately it has been my experience in respect to organizations on the local level that it is shameful to the extent in which they misrepresent themselves and what they do with the funds given by those with the desire to help. I’ve have taken others with life issues from losing their home due to fire to some that have lost their job or a spouse walked out leaving them to fend for themselves with nothing. Overall these individuals, after the paper gauntlet, have been treated as second class citizens and not worthy of their efforts. (Too many times larger churches were involved in this negative treatment) There has been few times that I was blessed to witness the compassion and willingness to help. I say all this, because I stand appalled at the fact that too many of these organizations are a scam and I would personally love to know what they do with the donated dollar. Shame-on-me; this has made me somewhat of a sceptic when I am asked to donate.

  16. Tessa from BradsDeals says:

    Glad you found us Laurine!

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