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Be proactive instead of reactive. Try to find the best charity you can instead of giving to the one that comes to you. People are passionate about certain causes, and passion is commendable. But if you can look beyond something like “a person I love suffered from Disease X, so I want to fight Disease X,” and instead think “a person I love suffered, so I want to fight suffering,” you can do a lot more good for more people. It’s good to ask critical questions, especially about what extra funds will allow a charity to do that it couldn’t do otherwise. It’s good to follow up over time and find out how things are going, but it doesn’t make much sense for someone giving $100 to try to micromanage how that $100 is used. Generally, the best thing you can do is find a great organization that really knows what it’s doing, then write a check with no strings attached. — As told to Julian Sancton