Q&A: Here’s why one donation of $1,000 beats 10 donations of $100

Dear Liz: I want to support about 10 charities and nonprofits but have a limited budget of $1,000. I’ve been dividing it among those charities, but would I have a bigger impact contributing the full amount to just one?

Answer: Absolutely, for a number of reasons.

Each charity spends a certain amount to process your donation. The smaller the donation, the more of it is eaten up by these costs. If it costs $5 to process a donation, for example, the costs represent 5% of each $100 donation. If $1,000 went to one charity, just one fee would be incurred and it would represent just 0.5% of the total.

Any donation you give can trigger more appeals from the charity, so you’re potentially incurring 10 times the junk mail.

Wise donors also research charities using services such as GuideStar or Charity Navigator to make sure the bulk of their contributions go to the cause, rather than to executive salaries, fundraising and overhead. Monitoring 10 charities is a lot more work than keeping track of one or two.

You might also consider making monthly contributions, rather than waiting until the end of the year, since that helps charities budget. A direct debit from your checking account is often the best way to set this up, because using a credit card incurs transaction fees that reduce your contribution.

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