'Tis the Season for Charitable Giving

If you’re considering giving during the holiday season, it’s important to find a charity that “puts your money to work.” 
Greg Kelly
Published: December 07, 2017
The holiday season is the time of the year when Americans are most likely to give to charitable organizations. On Giving Tuesday this November — the Tuesday following Thanksgiving marked as a global day of giving — $274 million was raised throughout the world via online donations.

And while they probably don’t get much credit for it, most veterinarians are charitable by nature. Indeed, some veterinarians might be able to put their children through college and buy a vacation home if they recouped the money they’ve lost over the years from offering free animal care. Practicing veterinarians know all too well that the “no charge for treatment” assortment includes a long list of friends and relatives along with legions of down-on-their-luck and working-stiff clients. Additionally, when veterinarians retire they often leave behind thousands of dollars in uncollected billable hours.

This year, it appears their generosity is needed now more than ever. A recent report from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which regularly reviews the nation’s charitable efforts, said that less than 25 percent of Americans are currently making charitable donations. This is down from 31 percent a decade ago.

“Demographic and cultural shifts may also be contributing to the decline,” noted the report. “Millennials have overtaken boomers as the country’s largest generation, and studies widely indicate that they aren’t embracing traditional ideas of giving.”

The Chronicle’s national survey of IRS data also found that the underprivileged give more often than the wealthy and the religious dig deeper than the non-religious. The three top states for giving were Utah, Mississippi and Alabama, while the least charitable states were all in the Northeast — New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. The national average for yearly donations is about 3 percent of annual income. For the typical veterinarian, that means about $2,600 in annual charity giving.

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For those in the giving mood, making charitable donations provides more than just relief for the recipients — donors receive health benefits, too. Research from the University at Albany found that donors have “a lower probability of suffering health-related problems” and that “donating to charity may actually improve a giver’s physical and emotional well-being.”

In the animal welfare sector no organization gets more financial support than the Nature Conservancy, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The Virginia-based group has received about $627 million in private donations this year. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was next with about $197 million in donations, followed by the World Wildlife Fund at $179 million and the Humane Society of the United States at $174 million.

When it comes to donations made to animal welfare causes, though, “a charity's name is not enough for you to decide whether to make a donation,” according to Consumer Reports’ Best Charities for Your Donations guide. The key is to find a charity that “puts your money to work.” Independent charity watchdog CharityWatch advocates for donors by sharing the efficiency with which more than 600 charitable organizations operate.

Consumer Reports has created a list of some of the highest- and lowest-rated charities. In the animal welfare category the companies that received top marks include the Animal Welfare Institute, American Bird Conservancy, PetSmart Charities, RedRover and African Wildlife Foundation. Alternatively, SPCA International and Tiger Missing Link Foundation were rated poorly.

 
Greg Kelly is a long-time health care writer and editor. He has written for the Physician’s Money DigestTM, Dentist’s Money DigestTM and Veterinarian’s Money DigestTM websites. He lives at the Jersey Shore and welcomes comments at gregkelly@monmouthbeachlife.com.

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