Watch CBS News

Money Matters - Christmas Week: Philanthropy - Do Good By Giving

BOSTON (CBS) - This time of year, everyone wants your money. You are getting pleas from charities in the mail and on TV. Annual gifts to charities are close to $303 billion and usually 25% of those dollars are collected between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year.

[Audio|titles=Do Good By Giving|artists=Dee Lee]

There are more than 800,000 public charities all wanting our support. When you decide to support a charity look beyond the razzle-dazzle. You want to look at the program ratio. That's the percentage of the charity's income that goes to administrative costs and fund raising. The smaller that number the more money that goes to doing the work of the charity.

So who do you help and how much do you give if you have any dollars left in your charitable budget? When my kids were little I wanted to teach them that indeed "It is better to give than to receive". Not an easy lesson for kids especially at Christmas.

We held a family meeting to decide where our contributions were going for the next year. We each could nominate a charity and we had to support our selection and explain why we thought this charity would be worthwhile for us to support. Then we voted giving each charity a number from one to ten.

The charity with the highest number got our financial support for the year. We also looked for charities that were local.

This year our dollars are going to Dana Farber again for cancer research because they were so good to our son.

And our local food pantry, Loaves & Fishes in Ayer, where my husband spends time helping to distribute food. Money is always welcome but so is food.

Consider taking the kids grocery shopping with you and allow them to fill up a basket for a food pantry.

I am doing this with my granddaughter. We created an imaginary family and she puts in her basket what she thinks the family would like to eat each week. There is always some fun stuff in there like a brownie mix or chocolate peanut butter. She views it from a kid's perspective and what she thinks they would like.

So if you want to find things the kids can do for a charity, consider letting them have a food drive in your neighborhood. Kids can do simple things to raise dollars for a charity.

Maybe it's a walkathon or a bikeathon where they can ask support for each mile they walk or ride. A car wash in the spring to raise money. They can collect bottles and cans for the deposits. All of these things usually require adult supervision but teaching about giving is worth the effort.

One more thing: Several good websites for checking on charitable giving:,,

New ideas:

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.