How to Support Our Troops Through Giving

A member of the 123rd Airlift Wing gets a welcome-home hug from loved ones at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky.  (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
A member of the 123rd Airlift Wing gets a welcome-home hug from loved ones at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

When service defines your family, finding new ways to serve and give back is almost second nature. For many military families, that means after the house is paid off, the car and insurance are taken care of, gas is in the car, and the kids are all set, finding a way to give to charity from whatever is leftover is important. In fact, the average American household donates just over $2.900 to charities every year, according to the National Philanthropic Trust. That’s a lot of money!

Whatever amount you are looking to donate, you need to be smart about it. With these three easy steps, you can make sure your contribution really makes a difference.

Step One: Where do you want to contribute?

There are over 400,000 military charities out there -- all focused on helping our community. If you are interested in helping the military community specifically, we have a great guide for how to do that here. Make sure you consider giving directly to organizations like Army Emergency Relief, Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society, or affiliates of the Air Force Assistance Funds. These organizations provide service members and their families with financial, educational, and other need-based assistance and play a vital role in the lives of many members of our community.

Step Two: How do you want to contribute?

Giving in the military is easy -- really. You can thank the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) for that. The brainchild of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the CFC is the workplace giving program available to all federal employees. More than 20,000 charities participate in the program, and in 2011, charitable pledges to the CFC totaled more than $272 million. That’s a lot of people doing a lot of good. That’s in large part due to how easy it is - you can donate to the CFC directly out of your paycheck.

You can set up a CFC donation the old-fashioned way through a paper pledge or by logging into DFAS’ myPay and setting up an allotment specifically for the CFC so that your donation comes directly after your paycheck - easy and done. You can even donate to the aforementioned relief societies directly through myPay. For more information on how allotments work, be sure to check out our line-by-line guide to the Leave and Earnings Statement (often just called the LES).

Step Three: Give intelligently

When the CFC allows you to give to more than 20,000 charities, and with so many others out there trying to serve the military community, it’s important that you know the organizations of your choice will be good stewards of your hard-earned dollar.

How can you ensure they actually will be? Easy. Do a little background research. Sites like Charity Navigator work to give you an easily-understood rating of a given charity so you know how that organization stacks up based on its financial health, accountability and transparency. With those pieces of information in hand, you’ll know that you’re not only giving to a charity that operates with a mission you believe in, you’re giving to a charity that does so efficiently and accountably.

Giving is good for both the recipient and the giver. If you give to charity, be sure to do so wisely -- and thanks to the CFC and the relief societies, you can be sure that giving has never been easier.

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