Research Before Giving

Washington Post Question: Should we admire Haitian singer Wyclef Jean for his charitable work even if it turns out that some of the money raised by his foundation, Yele Haiti, has been spent in questionable ways? How often do successful, high-profile people disappoint their admirers or lose their trust? And is that kind of trust be misguided in the first place?

In order to begin practicing generosity from a financial perspective, I made a decision to give 10 percent of the gross profit from one of my previous contracts to charity. The day the check came in from my speaking engagement, another piece of mail came from a charity I had never heard of before. Since I didn`t know what organization I wanted to support just yet, I thought this must be a sign.

Just like that, I scanned the letter, put it in my “important” file and planned to write the check the next day. My partner noticed what I was doing and questioned me.

“Why are you choosing that organization?”

“It`s a sign from above,” I said, quite confidently.

“Whatever! Do you know anything about the organization?”

“No, of course not, I just got the letter in the mail today. It looks legitimate, though.”

“Do your research first, Misti.”

“Research? What kind of research should I do? Why?”

“Make sure your money is being used to help people.”

The thought of spending time investigating the organization was annoying. “Why can`t I just assume the organization is doing the right thing with the money they receive?” I thought as I reluctantly took her advice.

The next day, I spent about 30 minutes on social media and Google researching the integrity of the organization. Fortunately, it had a solid track record, so I wrote the check and sent it.

While I don`t know whether we should admire anyone for their charitable contributions, I do know we should always ensure we know where our money is going. Researching an organization before giving money, or encouraging others to give money, is important, even if it is only a buck or two.

That said, I must admit my admiration for anyone who finds themselves in a position to create such an instant flow of cash to a country in need. No one is perfect, and it`s clear that Jean has a real interest in helping his home country. Is he helping himself along the way? Maybe. Is that “wrong?” I don`t know. Would I send money to his foundation? No.

Regardless of the person in charge of an organization, we need to do our research.

To see on Wash Post.com: http://views.washingtonpost.com/on-success/panelists/misti_burmeister/2010/01/a_fancy_title_created_by_extrordinary_people.html

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