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Efficient Charities: The Perfect Holiday Activity

volunteerThe holiday season always brings a touch of generosity to the air, something that retailers are always quick to cash in on. But amidst their gift-shopping and office parties, more and more people are also looking for efficient charities to put their time and money in. The end of the year is a great time to engage in charity work and make donations, especially for poor, war-torn, or disaster-weary communities where a helping hand is always welcome.

There are several good sides to donating to charity, the least of which is that it is tax-deductible in most areas. But for most people, it’s about much more than the tax break. Donating one’s time and energy is a two-way system: making other people happy brings rewards that are greater than any monetary gain or material gift. Here are some reasons why some people tirelessly help and donate—and why you should do the same.

For most people, the mere act of helping others—whether directly or through a small donation—does wonders for their sense of well-being. There is no better feel-good medicine than knowing you have made a positive difference in someone’s life, no matter how small. It spurs them into action to do something more. It can be as small as a quick picker-upper to get through a bad day, or a renewed sense of satisfaction and purpose.

As people donate more or volunteer, they can get quite involved in the cause. You may find yourself researching the cause and educating yourself about the larger social issues surrounding it. It all comes from the sense of purpose mentioned above. Having a cause you feel strongly about is a great motivator, whether it merely helps you get up in the morning or sets you on a more satisfying career path. In any case, it puts you in a better position to help even more.

An often-cited benefit to volunteering is social interaction. Giving your free time to a charity lets you spend time with people who share your interests, people who can either teach you or learn from you. This give-and-take setup makes for a strong community and a better environment than any corporate setting can provide. It also motivates you to keep coming back and urge other people to join in.

Of course, it all starts with finding a worthy cause. This is a personal choice, but you can get started by doing a quick internet search for efficient charities in your area. Starting local will allow you to work more closely with the charity and get to know it better. As with a lot of new endeavors, only that first step is hard to take—once you’ve done it, you’ll want to keep giving!

Things to Consider Before Sponsoring a Child

Most child sponsors think of what they do as a deeper, more personal take on donating. Instead of just putting money into a charity, they create a bond between them and a child in need, taking responsibility for their education, well-being, and future success. But let’s face it, these are tough economic times and you do want to know where your money’s going. If you’re thinking about sponsoring a child, read on for answers to some of the most common questions.

Child matching

You can usually choose which child to sponsor, or choose a country, region, age, or gender. Save the Children, for example, allows you to narrow your choice down in all of these categories. Some sponsors choose a place they’ve been to or plan on visiting, while others have a soft spot for children with certain disabilities.

Following your child’s progress

Most organizations also let you communicate with the child if you want to.  This gives you the opportunity to build a friendship and make your bond with the child even deeper. You can sign up for regular updates on the child’s school performance, health, and economic status. Sometimes you even get drawings or letters from the child to his or her sponsors.

Sponsorship costs

The costs of sponsorship depend on the organization administering the program, and how much of the child’s needs are covered. You can sponsor a child for less than $30 per month. The money may not be spent directly on one child, but combined with contributions from other sponsors to help the entire community. This ensures that all children benefit from the program, instead of just those who live in sponsorship communities.

Tax deductions

Child sponsorship contributions are tax-deductible. The policies vary by country and state, so it’s best to contact your local tax office for information. There’s usually a limit to how much of your contributions can be written off your taxable income. Different rules also apply for when you give or receive a gift sponsorship.

Opting out

There is usually no minimum or maximum duration for child sponsorship. Charities usually let you opt out any time, or change your sponsorship terms with little or no question. Each one works differently, however—some let you sponsor a child for a fixed term, in which case there may be more paperwork involved. In general, however, there are no constraints on opting out, as contributions are completely voluntary.

 

Green Collar Jobs Analyzed

When “green collar” jobs became a buzzword in the mid-2000s, many thought it was the wave of the future. And for a while, it was: there was a surge in environmentally oriented activity in the world’s biggest economies and even several developing ones. About a decade on, however, the trend seems to have hit a plateau, at least in the US. Only 2.4 percent of Americans were employed in green jobs in 2010, much lower than projected, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). On the bright side, the growth has been steady, albeit small, and green jobs have spread so that there are options for aspiring green collars anywhere. The study considered jobs in sectors focused on producing renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, recycling, reducing pollution, and conserving natural resources.

Only six states had more than 100,000 green jobs reported, the report showed. California had the most with 338,400 jobs, with New York a distant second with 248,500. The rest include Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio. This doesn’t necessarily make them the greenest job markets, though: since they’re also among the largest states, the numbers are understandable.

In terms of how much of the total jobs were classified as green, Vermont led the pack with a ratio of 4.4 percent. Following close were D.C. and Idaho with 3.9 and 3.7 percent respectively. Other top rankers include Maryland, Alaska, Montana, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and Pennsylvania, all of which had ratios above 3 percent.

An analysis from The Atlantic magazine suggests that the green job market depends largely upon income and education. States with a higher median income and whose population has a large percentage of college graduates tend to have more green jobs. An even stronger correlation was found between green jobs and knowledge-based and creative economies—states with a large market for research, recreation, and the arts. Subsequently, states where unskilled workers are numerous have much fewer green-collar employment options.

What the numbers could mean is that more green jobs might come along, but will not necessarily open up opportunities for lower-skilled workers, nor will it make much of a difference in industrialized states. It might have something to do with the financial crisis as staying afloat overtakes environmental thrusts in the private sector, but as the economy stabilizes over the next few years, more green collar jobs may open up for a wider range of workers.

 

Ecotourism Jobs

In 2006, the New York Times named “ecotourism” the buzzword of the year, citing efforts by numerous countries to cash in on their natural resources and boost their tourism revenue. Five years on, the not-so-fledgling industry continues to generate hype, helping economies and the environment along the way. It’s no surprise that an increasing number of college graduates are eyeing careers in ecotourism, and that the field is growing wider and more competitive by the day.

Ecotourism jobs span a broad range of fields, including business, management, finance, science, arts and communication, and the social sciences. Indeed, there are ways to apply just about any skill in the quest to save the planet. Sites like Treehugger.com (owned by the Discovery network) offer comprehensive job boards in ecotourism and other “green collar” jobs.

Perhaps the most direct way to get into ecotourism is to specialize in the sciences. Chemistry, biology, and environmental science are all in high demand among green companies. Graduates from these fields can make a living doing research for private and public agencies, helping them find ways to preserve endangered sites and maintain wildlife populations.

 

If you’re more attracted to hospitality jobs, ecotourism also offers ample opportunities. With the right training, you can work for hotels, restaurants, airlines, and other travel firms with an environmental thrust. You can also occupy information desks and help people plan sustainable vacations. If you love to travel, this field may be your best bet. A degree in tourism or management can come in handy.

Management and business professionals often end up at the helm of operations, or even running the outfit themselves. If you work well with a team and are able to make smart decisions, you can launch and head your own ecotourism projects, promoting local sites or traveling to other destinations. If your skills lie more on the creative side, you can go into environmental journalism, public relations, or marketing, where communication skills and a bit of creative flair are valuable.

Ecotourism is a broad discipline, and its rapid growth over the years is proof that it’s here to stay. And that’s a good thing, because it opens doors for people who would otherwise enter an already crowded job market. Whether you’re just starting or looking to change career paths, you’re sure to find a wealth of opportunities in ecotourism. As an added perk, you get to travel, meet interesting people, and make the world a better place while you’re at it.

Charities List: Find out where your help is most needed

Giving is giving, whether it’s a few dollars or a trust fund. But in charity, not all organizations are made equal. “Intelligent giving,” as evaluation website Charity Navigator puts it, is about choosing recipients that make the best use of your money. The site, put up in 2001, offers a charities list for a wide range of categories, and rates them according to financial performance, accountability, and overall effectiveness. Here’s a list of some of its top charities from last year:

MAP International: This Georgia-based group provides community and health development services in over 115 countries, and works with hundreds of smaller organizations to promote its cause. They provide free medicine, push for cleaner water supply, and focus on eliminating disease by fighting its root cause.

Globus Relief: What sets this charity apart is that aims to cooperate rather than compete with its peers. Globus Relief works with other charities to better distribute healthcare resources and make financial resources reach more people. It currently runs over 12,000 projects in over 100 countries, and has given out more than $200 million in health products.

Direct Relief International: California’s biggest humanitarian non-profit, Direct Relief provides healthcare assistance to poverty- and disaster-stricken communities in the U.S. and abroad. Since its opening in 1948, the group has donated $1.6 billion in material resources and consistently led the pack in responding to health emergencies.

Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta: The goal of this group is simple: to help other non-profits and charities flourish. It encourages philanthropy among individuals and businesses, allowing them to use their skills and knowledge to help the community. They also help promote organizational training to make sure local charities are properly run.

Forgotten Harvest: Waste and hunger are the two main issues for this 21-year-old organization. They address them by taking surplus food from groceries, restaurants, and other establishments and giving them away to soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters, where they would otherwise just go to waste. The group “rescues” more than 19 million pounds of Health Department-approved food every year.

American Endowment Foundation: This group helps potential donors find the best ways to use their money. They offer advice on how people contribute, whether in money or assets, and help them decide which charities to support. Although their service is geared towards corporate donors, individuals can pick up a thing or two on giving to charity and getting the most out of their money.

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