Of course, this does not mean we should be swayed by every request for a handout when there is no real indication of need, but even when we want to help where the need is real, finding the charities that do the most good is not always easy. Some charities spend great amounts on overheads and salaries while others may support good, but hardly vital, causes. Yet there are many charities that do accomplish a great deal. How to find them? If we focus on the relief of life-threatening and dire needs, there are three main areas in which we can help:
Disaster: Several charities do good work in this area, but some have high overhead costs. A safe and great way to help in this area is through established disaster relief funds such as the International Red Cross or various church charities that send aid to countries around the world to help with transient but devastating disasters such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, tornadoes and tsunamis.
Hunger: Some well-known charities like Action Against Hunger do very good work, but this is an area in which it pays to be especially careful. Some of the charities in this group also use funds for tangential causes. Check their websites carefully before selecting a charity to help.
Medical Need: There are charities for many medical needs – all of them worthy causes – but the ones which can potentially save lives as well as bring relief from suffering are surely especially deserving. For example, cleft repair charities provide cleft lip and palette surgeries to children around the world enabling them to properly eat and drink, to be free of a great disfigurement, and to lead normal lives. There are several charities doing great work in this area, the largest of which is “Smile Train,” rated by the New York Times as “one of the best charities, dollar for dollar.”
If you are unsure about a given charity, or in any event before contributing to one, consider checking it out on one of the online charity monitoring organizations (for example, www.Charitynavigator.org) to see what percentage of funds received actually reaches the intended destination.
Even small contributions can help well-run charities, and strong currencies such as the US dollar go a long way in Third World countries where the needs are often greatest. So never think that a small amount will not accomplish anything. Jesus’ comment on the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4) shows the importance of even the smallest gift. We may have no idea of how much someone may be helped by our support, but when the need is great, even a small gift can be a great help.