The giving season is upon us as 2013 comes to a close. Charitable donations are an important way of giving back to our community. If you are eager to give back or help out, just how do you decide what to give and through whom?  For those wishing to exercise wise stewardship, these issues are significant.

An increasingly popular metric is “effectiveness,” or the ability of a charity to make a difference. To some, this is a technical question and involves hard data, number-crunching, and non-biased analysis. Resolving the technical questions is an easier matter in the digital age.

However, measuring how a charity makes a difference is also a question of how you define “making a difference.” The New York Times considered this in an article titled “Making a Difference in This Season of Giving.”  If you are “charitably inclined,” it may be worth your time to read the original article.

How do you determine the values most important to you, and how do you prioritize certain decisions over others?  The Times article discusses the work of philosopher Peter Singer.  One question he poses is whether one ought to give locally or to the very neediest, wherever located. This is not merely an abstract matter, as there are some hard data points, principles, and practical considerations to mull over.  Regardless whether you agree with Singer, this can be a very meaningful approach to the question of what, how, and why to give.

Time is ticking for those year-end gifts, though. It is time to nail down your priorities and preferences and make some important decisions.

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