How to give and know you're helping

Making a charitable donation during the holidays isn't just an act of kindness, often it's also an act of faith. As you mail your donation check or drop some bills and loose change into that collection bucket outside the grocery store, it's only natural to wonder just where the money is going, who it's helping, and if it's really helping anyone at all.Wouldn't it feel good this holiday season to know your contributions are really making a difference? Knowing who your donation benefits can help make the act of giving even more enriching for you and the recipient of your generosity. Fortunately, there are ways to do good that you can also feel good about, knowing the real effects of your efforts. Here are two ideas for holiday giving that you can know will make a difference: Donate your time Everyone is busy during the holidays, but if you want to be confident your charitable giving is really making a difference, donating your time to a worthy cause is a good option. Not only will you enjoy the spiritual nourishment of actively helping others, you'll be able to see the actual results of your contribution. The options are virtually endless and you can find a way to give that fits your schedule and personal preferences. Are you handy around the house? Contribute your time to an organization that builds or repairs homes for those in need. Perhaps you're a good cook or a deft server? Volunteer to prepare or serve meals at your local soup kitchen. Do you get along well with kids? Contact churches or homeless shelters in your area and volunteer for their child care programs. No matter how you choose to do it, donating your time costs you nothing more than a few hours, but can deliver the reward of seeing firsthand just who your contribution is helping. Finance a micro loan Money is often what people in need require most. Yet if you believe the old adage "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," you may feel hesitant to just hand over cash without knowing your donation will help the recipient build a better future for themselves. Funding a microfinance loan for a small business owner in a developing country is a great way to ensure your donation not only helps someone immediately, but helps create a better future as well. Organizations like World Vision provide micro loans - ranging from $25 to $5,000 - to small businesses in Mexico, the Philippines, Kenya and Rwanda. Through the organization's website,, you can fund a loan - entirely or partially. What's more, you can select the entrepreneur you would like to help and designate exactly how much to loan that person. The website provides details on business owners, why each needs a loan, and how they will use the loan. After you've made a loan, you'll get reports on how your chosen entrepreneur has spent the money, how his or her business is faring and how the entrepreneur is re-investing profits. Your loan is recorded as a tax-deductible monetary donation. When borrowers repay their loans, their funds go back into World Vision's local community bank and the money is loaned out again to help other entrepreneurs in the same community. The repayment rate for World Vision loans is nearly 99 percent. Microfinance loans foster small-scale entrepreneurship and foster long-term solutions to poverty by helping individuals and communities transition from poverty to independence. Log on to to learn more. When you make a charitable donation during the holidays - or any time of year - your heart is in the right place. You'll feel even better about your contribution if you know for sure you money is ending up in the right place as well.

********** Published: November 18, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 31