Give Until it Feels Good

by Marta Countess

As we near the end of the year, it’s time to drill down on the best charity for your personal or professional giving.

You’ll be asked by many charities to help or donate, and in my view, the charity and its mission need to “speak to you.” The tax break is great, but giving of your money (or time) should matter.  Here are some basics on how you can research and select the right charity for your giving.

Start by clarifying your values. 

What is important to me?

  • sick children?
  • the hungry or homeless?
  • endangered animals?
  • the environment?
  • big picture causes that have touched you or your family?

Does it matter if the charity is local, regional, or national?

Do you want to support a large or small charity?

Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to research charities that fit your values and goals. If Googling “charities to donate to” seems daunting, you can use websites to whittle down where you want to donate by cause or location. Some good resources are Charity Navigator (, GuideStar (, and Great Nonprofits (

Once you’re there, look at the charity’s description on one of these sites and compare it to what you see on their website.  Which ones speak to your heart?  You also want to look at it like a business.  Make sure those you’ve narrowed your focus on are legit.  Are they a 501c3?  If it’s not showing up on these charity checking sites, ask the organization you’re considering to see its “letter of determination.”  If it’s faith-based, ask to see an official listing in a directory for its denomination.  Reputable organizations will be transparent and willing to define their mission and have measurable goals.  You’re essentially being a savvy entrepreneur and using the same criteria to measure their work and the ROI.  Avoid charities that won’t share information or pressure you.   That goes for those that won’t take no for an answer, too.

For my company, we’ve tried to spread the wealth.  We support a variety of charities with monetary donations, but we spend time and donate services with the following.  Bear with us while we explain our criteria.

Local:  Pediatric Cancer Foundation Lehigh Valley (

This is a donation of time.  I serve on the Marketing Committee for PCFLV.  Countess Communications has also sponsored their annual walk.


Regional: Star Treatments (

This is a donation of money, time, and services.

The charity is based in Michigan but reaches the Tri-state area by helping sick children to get to and from their doctor’s appointments in luxury transportation.  We make a monthly donation plus donate video services.  We’ve met amazing families here in the Lehigh Valley and partnered with wonderful local supporters to do fundraising work for this one.  In fact, our next fundraising event features the fabulous magician, Denny Corby, and is being held on November 22 at the Barrister’s Club in Allentown (hint hint)! Event details are below.


National:  American Heart Association-Lehigh Valley (

This is also a donation of time and services.

My husband and I both lost our Father’s to heart disease.  This was a no brainer, and we like the team that leads the local office.  I serve on the Heart Ball Committee, and we also produce the video that is shown at the annual Go Red luncheon each May.

While these are just a few of our personal picks, there’s an overwhelming amount of charitable organizations that deserve your time and money.  Finding and supporting a cause you care about doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  Once you find nonprofits that align with your values, you’re well on your way.

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