Patricia “Patty” McIlreavy
President and CEO, Center for Disaster Philanthropy
Americans are generous. In 2018, we gave $427.71 billion to charity — and that was before a global emergency shifted everyone’s perspective. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been inspiring: A survey conducted by Fidelity Charitable found that 25 percent of donors planned to increase their charitable donations in response to the emergency.
But how do we ensure that our donations are going to the right places? Patricia “Patty” McIlreavy, president and CEO of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) , sat down to talk about ways to ensure your charitable donations have the most impact.
Combatting fake news
The first step, according to Mcllreavy, is to vet your information sources. “I’m a true believer in being open to hearing different points of view, not relying on one source of information,” she says. “One obvious way around that is to go to the source material yourself.”
The due diligence extends to choosing organizations to donate to. “There are resources out there that you can look at to vet organizations and get a better understanding of whether they are effective, efficient, are they good stewards of the funds you may give them,” Mcllreavy says. “One is Charity Navigator, and another is GuideStar — those are ideal places to start. I would also say look at those trusted sources you have in the media, or maybe your investment adviser — different organizations pull together lists of organizations to support; we do at CDP.”
Another option is to donate not to a specific charity or cause, but to a fund, where your donation will be pooled with others. “When you donate to a fund like CDP, someone else is doing all that stewardship for you. We research who’s having impact, who’s helping, how, where are the gaps in the assistance that’s occurring that needs to be filled? Your money goes further because your five dollars matches with someone else’s five dollars matches with someone else’s five dollars and before you know it, there’s a lot more money to go to those organizations that you care about in larger grants.”
Mcllreavy preaches a spoonful of caution. “Be careful,” she warns. “Unfortunately, as with any crisis, there are people who are taking advantage and who are not legitimate. Don’t feel bad by deciding to double-check the organizations you’re intending to give to. Take a moment to make sure that who you’re helping is actually a legitimate organization.”
Even if you don’t have money to give, Mcllreavy says there are plenty of ways to help. “I think we all too often think of generosity in terms of money. I think generosity of spirit goes so far beyond that. Community is about giving and caring for each other. If you can, give funds or give your time. But that’s not the only way that communities are made. Communities are made through all of us caring about each other, looking out for each other, and taking care of each other.”