It’s #GivingTuesday, a recent addition to the internet’s proliferous hashtag events. Putting aside the sneaky urge to be cynical about yet another manufactured holiday, we are on board with the spirit of this movement. So we compared notes here and boiled down five ways anyone can help out.

1. Look before you leap. If you’re like us, you care a lot about the impact of your dollars, whether invested or donated. So how do you make sure your good intentions translate to good results? When approached for a donation, don’t jump right in. Research the organization using sites like Charity Navigator; watch out for high-overhead programs, flimsy results, and actions that don’t match the charity’s mission (and yours).

2. Vet multiple options. Whatever your charity of choice promises to do, research other charities doing similar work. Google is not a bad place to start, but follow up your browsing with the same due diligence you’d exercise for a big investment. If your focus is for particular missions in developing regions, check out the heavily pre-vetted options at GiveWell.

3. Consider your community. National and international charities get a lot of attention, but there are lots of ways to make a difference you can see. Contact your favorite local libraries, schools, literacy programs, and service organizations to ask how you can help. Ask your friends and business associates about local charities or organizations that have earned their respect.

4. Get your hands dirty. Volunteering is a great way to meet people with similar interests, and to see firsthand the effects of your effort. There’s no shortage of opportunities to donate your time and skill to local or national causes. Here at OWLshares, we’ve volunteered in a number of ways: guest lecturer for financial literacy, parade performer, community litter removal, committee members for arts and fundraising events, and more. Best part? It’s fun!

5. Invest thoughtfully. The money you don’t give away can also do good while it’s working for you. There’s an increasing trend among the wealthy to redirect formerly philanthropic dollars into impact investments, which aim to make a positive change in the world while providing market-comparable returns. Investors can pursue similar aims by optimizing their investments with ESG data or investing in products which already incorporate environmental, social, and governance factors.

Do you celebrate #GivingTuesday? Tweet @OWLshares and tell us how!
Further reading:

Wall Street Journal: How to Vet a Charity — Thorough and thoughtful tips for getting the best charitable bang for your buck. Everything You Need to Know About Giving to Charity  — The You be the Judge section explains clearly how to find information in public tax filings, particularly useful for charities that aren’t covered in the major vetting sites.

The information contained herein (the “Information”) is for illustration and discussion purposes only. It is not, and may not be relied on as, investment advice or as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. The Information is not sufficient to form a basis for deciding to make any investment. There can be no assurance and no representation, express or implied, that the Information is accurate. The Information is provided as of the date indicated, is not complete, is subject to change, and no obligation is undertaken to revise or update it.