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Family Finances: Giving to charity while on a budget

  • Author: Rivan V. Stinson, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
  • Updated: November 26, 2019
  • Published November 26, 2019

You don’t have to let a slim budget stop you from giving to charity. Here are ways to do good on limited means:

One strategy is to combine philanthropy and saving by investing in companies that seek to make the world a better place. There are apps that will help you do that. The Stash app, for example, identifies exchange-traded funds and individual stocks that allow you to invest in companies that align with your convictions, from clean energy to workplace equality. You need only $5 to open a Stash account, and you'll pay just $1 per month for a beginner's account.

Another option: Find out if your 401(k) plan offers a socially responsible fund, such as Vanguard Global ESG Select Stock (symbol VEIGX) or Parnassus Mid Cap (PARMX), one of Kiplinger's favorite actively managed no-load mutual funds.

Many on social media are bombarded with charitable solicitations. Facebook added a feature in 2017 that allows users to request donations to their favorite charity in lieu of birthday gifts. Depending on how many Facebook friends you have, the posts can be overwhelming. And unless you vet the charities, you have no idea how the money will be used. Donating small amounts to multiple causes may seem like the most generous thing to do, but experts say you can make a much greater impact by limiting your donations to one or two charities.

GoFundMe pitches tend to populate Facebook news feeds as well, and some of these are even more troubling. You're usually prompted to help people or organizations that one of your friends has heard about, but you have no way of knowing if help is actually needed or if the fund-raiser is a scam. In 2017, a couple collected close to $400,000 from donors purportedly to help a homeless man who lent the couple his last $20. All three have been charged with fraud.

If something on your social media feed does catch your attention, do your homework. You can look up charities on Charity Navigator ( and the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance site ( Charity Navigator rates charities on financial health and accountability; the Wise Giving Alliance checks out governance, fund-raising, effectiveness and donor privacy. You'll also want to search the internet for complaints and reviews about the charity. If the charity is mostly local, try searching for it on your region's Better Business Bureau website.

Rivan V. Stinson is a staff writer at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Send your questions and comments to And for more information on this topic, visit

Help your fellow Alaskans by donating to nonprofits in our community: Search and find a list of nonprofits on the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce website to discover a group to donate to.

Keep an eye out for donation bins around town: hats, scarves, gloves, coats, non-perishable foods and more are collected at numerous businesses and restaurants. There may even be a drive happening in your office or your child’s school!

Spend time with others: reach out to shelters, hospitals and assisted living facilities to see if they are in need of volunteers. Or offer to help out at your child’s school or your place of worship.

Pick.Click.Give: Remember, we’ll be entering PFD application season soon and there’s a quick and easy way to give to local nonprofits. Plan ahead and budget to set aside a portion of your PFD to Alaskan nonprofits near and dear to your heart.