Choosing a Charity: A Checklist for Giving

Giving JarDuring the holiday season, it’s easy to become filled with the giving spirit. Before you write that check, drop off that gift or schedule that volunteer day, be sure to take the time to vet the nonprofit of your choosing. We’ve compiled tips on how to find worthy nonprofits to help you make the most of your generosity.

✓ Find an Organization That Supports Your Mission

Take time to think about what causes really matter to you. What issues tug at your heartstrings? Use those feelings and instincts as a guide to narrow down a few deserving nonprofits.

✓ Set Your Standards 

Once you’ve found a couple of charities whose mission aligns with yours, think about criteria that are important to you. Is it important that the nonprofit keeps overhead costs as low as possible and uses the majority of donations to directly further its mission? Do you care less about overhead and more about statistics explaining the direct level of impact the organization makes?

✓ Do Your Homework

Head to websites like GuideStar.org to look into the nitty-gritty of the organizations of your choosing. GuideStar offers records from 1.8 million nonprofits. You can even access an organization’s Form 990 (the basic IRS filing document for nonprofits) to assess the charity’s income, spending, mission and executive salaries. Its role is not to act as a charity evaluator, but merely as an unbiased source to find facts.

Charity Navigator, on the other hand, does act as an evaluator. This website rates nonprofits based on a variety of criteria, including whether or not they properly registered as a 501(c)3 (nonprofit entity), length of existence, level of public support
and more.

✓ Look for Red Flags

If you decide to research a charity yourself, take note of red flags. Does the organization withhold information about their programs or finances? Do they use pressure tactics to garner donations?

✓ Decide How You Want to Give

Once you’ve vetted and chosen a nonprofit, decide on what type of giving suits you. Do you want to have a hands-on experience and volunteer time? Do you want to donate physical items? Do you want to make a one-time monetary donation?

No matter what route you take, your efforts will help an organization you believe in do more good and support a cause that matters to you.

Sources:

Charity Navigator, charitynavigator.org

GuideStar, guidestar.org

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