Finding just the right place to make a charitable donation can be daunting. After all, there are so many different groups that need money, and often you are bombarded with direct mail from many of them. How do you decide whom to give to—and how do you say no?

Whether you're thinking about donating five dollars, five hundred, or five thousand, this is an issue that requires some consideration. No matter how much or how little money I have to work with, I always try to think it through and make smart choices based on research and my personal giving platform.

Although my commitment to making careful choices hasn't changed, what has changed is my attitude. As I've found my authentic self in giving, discovering which causes and issues mean the most to me, I've simply had to get over my guilt at not being able to donate to everything. I respect a wide variety of causes, so much so that I promote them on my website and speak about them a lot, but I may not personally donate to them because they are not a part of my personal giving platform. Examples include the symphony, the opera, large museums, and institutions with large endowments and a lot of donor plaques all over the buildings.

I won't give you rhyme or reason for my preferences; they're just the issues that I happen to care most deeply about. And if you're going to make donations of your own, you need to develop your own preferences—and then get comfortable with them, too. This way, not only will you feel extraordinary when you write your check for $10, $100, or $1,000, you will also soon begin to feel the fruits of your giving, because you are focused on a cause or an organization and will be able to follow up and know that your contributions are making a difference.

Excerpted from If It Takes a Village, Build One: How I Found Meaning Through a Life of Service and 100+ Ways You Can Too by Malaak Compton-Rock, foreword by Marian Wright Edelman. Copyright © 2010 by Broadway Books. Reprinted by permission of Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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