As the Christmas holiday approaches, people are gearing up to spend on gifts, but they aren’t going to give as much to charity, according to

So why are Americans so tentative when it comes to giving to charities?

“Depressed stock prices—a better predictor of giving than personal income, according to the Indiana University Center of Philanthropy—are one reason,” reported. “The economy is another.”

The IUCP also stated that many Americans have lost their trust in big institutions due to corporate scandals and questionable distribution of Sept. 11 funds.

Still, this is the busiest season for charities. According to Charity Navigator, a non-profit charity evaluator, in the last five weeks of the year, more than half of all charitable donations for 2002 are made.

Charities are working harder than ever to eliminate the guesswork of giving. In fact, entire organizations exist just to monitor how charities use their funds.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy listed several options for donors when it comes to researching their charities.

“As donors prepare to make their year-end gifts, they have a wide range of options when they conduct research,” The Chronicle reported. “In addition to Charity Navigator, an Internet-based evaluation service called Ministry Watch, which rates some 500 Christian organizations, was created in 2000. Those groups join the ranks of the venerable Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Wise Giving Alliance and the outspoken and often controversial American Institute of Philanthropy as the four leading charity evaluators.”

Charity Navigator wants donors to ask themselves five questions before signing the check:

  1. Can you clearly identify your charity’s mission?
  2. Can your charity define its short-term and long-term goals?
  3. How is your charity progressing towards its short-term and long-term goals?
  4. Can you trust your charity?
  5. Are you willing to make a long-term commitment to your organization?

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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