Three ideas for better charities

We try to be generous and help our neighbors, even in touch times. In 2009, 92% of Hawaii households donated to charity, according to Ward Research (“A Report on Charitable Giving in Hawaii,” 8/09). We try to choose charities that can make the best use of our donations. But how can we choose effective charities?

There are 1,451 registered charitable organizations in Hawaii as of June 2010, all of them competing for our attention, our time, and our money. That number doesn’t include all the national and international non-profit organizations asking for our support.

The number of charities reflects our aloha spirit, but I think we need fewer charities in Hawaii. So here are three ideas to help make charities more effective, and put charity organizers in touch with each other.

* Let’s consolidate charities. If charities with similar backgrounds and objectives merged together, they could share their capabilities, resources, volunteers, and donors. Smaller charities have more help raising money, filling out grant applications, and finding the right people.

* Let’s donate directly to the charities that we support – and reduce the number of charities that raise money and pass that money on to other charities. By donating to a fundraising organization, we reduce the amount that is actually spent on programs and services.

* Let’s partner with existing charities before starting a new charity. Or consider a bequest or scholarship fund as a memorial. We may not have the same impact or control, but we’d be working with an established and trusted organization.

I know that sometimes, a little money can make a big difference. But fewer charities would be able to raise more money and accomplish more. What do you think?

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