An End of the Year Spending Spree

 

At Control Your Cash we’ve already bitched written about giving (mostly worthless) gifts that add to your debt – twice!  Today’s post is about spending money.  It’s sure to become a collector’s item.

If the congressional Democrats and President Obama get their way, 2011 might be the last year in which you’ll be able to fully deduct charitable giving on your federal tax return. Charitable giving isn’t just a way to lower your tax obligation: ideally, it’s a way for you to support the neediest among us. You choose where your money will best be spent, instead of the state or federal government doing so. How much you give is up to you.  How much of it gets to whoever needs it most is also up to you:

Do your homework

Use CharityNavigator.org or GuideStar.org to look up how each charity raises and spends its money. Let’s look at two organizations that get lots of publicity for their work with animals, specifically the plight of homeless pets:

Best Friends Animal Society* has a Charity Navigator score of 52.90 (out of 100), making it a 3-star charity.

-77% of the money raised goes to fulfill the organization’s mission: No more homeless pets.
-Administrative expenses are 7% of income.
-It costs them 12¢ to raise $1.
-The CEO’s pay is .21% of income, and thus under $100,000. Best Friends’ 3 highest executive salaries combined are less than 1% of the organization’s income. And one of those salaries is that of the head of Best Friends’ Medical Center, a veterinarian who also sits on the organization’s board of directors.
-The organization gets top marks for its financial practices, accountability and transparency.

The North Shore Animal League has a rating of 44.61, making it a 2-star charity.

-79.6% of the money raised is used to fulfill its mission: To build our hands-on rescue, rehabilitation and adoption efforts to save the lives of as many companion animals as possible – one at a time – and promote education to increase shelter adoptions, reduce animal cruelty and advance the highest standards in animal welfare.
-Administrative expenses are 3.8% of income.
-It costs them 19¢ to raise $1.
-The CEO is paid $344,227, or 1.1% of income.
-The organization doesn’t have a whistleblower policy, or donor privacy policy.  Nor does it post its IRS Form 990 online.

I choose Best Friends Animal Society over North Shore Animal League, because I don’t like to support a charity whose CEO earns more than $200,000. That’s one of my  requirements, you’ll have your own.

Find a good fit

Want to help our military men and their families?
The Navy Seal Foundation  (69.34), Hope for the Warriors (65.96) and Operation Homefront (65.18) are all 4-star charities.

How about making a difference for the next generation?
Feed my Starving Children (69.14) does exactly that. Operation Breakthrough (66.96) offers daycare for poor kids in Kansas City. Child Advocates (67.08) are court-appointed volunteers who check up on foster kids in Houston.

Make-A-Wish International (67.09), National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction (64.52) and Children’s Cancer and Blood Foundation (62.26) help sick, disfigured and dying kids.

Cradles to Crayons (65.77) gives clothes and books to poor kids in Boston and Philadelphia. Donors Choose (67.86) gets school supplies (everything from violins to microscope slides) for needy kids across the country.

Interested in giving on an international level?
Doctors Without Borders* (60.12), you’re probably familiar with. Kiva (67.56) is a microfinance lender. Heifer International (57.14) provides livestock. Lutheran World Relief (63.02) does everything from digging wells in poor countries to buying seedlings and tools for farmers.

Believe everyone deserves a chance to live in a safe community and a sturdy home? 
Habitat for Humanity* (62.19 for its Las Vegas chapter) builds houses throughout the world.

Can’t find a charity in the database?  Use this tool.

Have a plan

All year long, you’re bombarded with requests to give money.  If you have a philanthropy plan, you can easily decide which charity to support. Knowing that you’re supporting specific organizations or areas of interest takes away some of the guilt you might feel when you say “no” to a charity that doesn’t fit your plan.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate:

-Write down how much you’d like to give in 2012, either as a portion of your income or a dollar amount.
-Make a list of every organization to whom you’d like to donate.
-Verify that the charities will be efficient, honest stewards of your money.
-Allocate an amount for each charity on your list.

This forces you to be ruthless and prioritize your favored charities.  And it ensures that you’re thoughtfully giving to organizations you believe in.

It’s not all about the money

Even if you don’t have a lot of money to give, you can do something. Volunteer your time to play with the animals at the shelter. Clean out your closets and give away all the clothes, shoes and other items you don’t use. Buy a few extra cans for your  food bank. It all counts. This site will help you keep track of non-cash donations.

What are you waiting for?  Go out there and give.

*I donate to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and used to donate to Doctors Without Borders and Habitat for Humanity.

 

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

USS New York built with steel from the World Trade Center

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” General George S. Patton

A few Veterans Day thoughts:

3 verified veterans are left from the Big Red One.   All allies.  We win.

2,000 veterans of WWII die everyday. Go here to thank them (along with Korea & Vietnam vets) for their service.

Meet 5 Purdue students who put their lives and education on hold to serve their country.

Video for the neocom in all of us:

And one to make you cry:

“You called me strong, you called me weak,
But still your secrets I will keep
You took for granted all the times I
Never let you down
You stumbled in and bumped your head, if
Not for me then you would be dead
I picked you up and put you back
On solid ground
If I go crazy then will you still
Call me Superman
If I’m alive and well, will you be
There holding my hand
I’ll keep you by my side with my
Superhuman might
Kryptonite”

Kryptonite – 4 Doors Down

Show your thanks:

“Homes for our Troops assists severely injured Servicemen and Servicewomen and their immediate families by raising donations of money, building materials and professional labor then coordinates the process of building a home that provides maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently. The homes provided by Homes for Our Troops are given at NO COST to the Veterans we serve.”

 

Project Valour-IT raises funds for special laptops and other IT equipment for wounded warriors.

Taking Chance is a moving tribute to the men and women who serve, sacrifice and die to protect our great country.

To all veterans…thank you.

 

 

A tradition of service, sacrifice & brotherhood

Warnings were ignored; intelligence was fragmented; and an enemy bent on destroying our way of life inflicted damage to our shores, our people & our psyche.

But the Japanese underestimated the will & the strength of Americans. Instead of scaring us into staying out of the conflict in Europe & Asia, the attack lead to a series of events resulting in the US becoming the undisputed leader of the free world.
Leaders have to make tough choices and, for better or for worse, that’s what we’ve done for the last 67 years. Sending our fathers, brothers & husbands (recently our mothers, sisters & wives as well) to fight the good fight.
I’m proud to be the daughter of a Korean war veteran, the niece of a World War II veteran and the (ex) daughter-in-law of a Vietnam veteran. They’re no longer with us, but their example lives on. Ordinary men asked to do extraordinary things.
I stumbled across this great article today; our soldiers as seen through the eyes of their French comrades:
“Honor, motherland – everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission. And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention. ”

Reading this extraordinary pean to our fighting men & women (along with the comments) reminds me that familiarity breeds contempt and sometimes an outside perspective is needed to see the truth.

Also check out this video from Kid Rock:

and…

Go to these sites if you’re interested in supporting our troops during the holidays:

Treats for Troops
Holiday Mail for Heroes
Trees for Troops