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Top 10 Things to Look for in a Charity

giving to charity
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Supporting a charitable organization is something everyone should make a habit of; once you decide to support a cause, you’ll discover that there are a lot of worthy ones to pick from. Not only is it difficult to choose one (or some) above others, but how can you be sure it’s a worthy cause and you aren’t just contributing to someone’s GoFundMe for their spring break cruise?

Here are the top 10 things to consider when choosing a charitable organization to support.

1. Do They Have 501c3 Status?

Having a 501c3 status means they are registered in the US as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. You would be surprised that a lot of tabletop canisters aren’t really registered charities — so your money may be going in someone’s pocket. Plus, if they’re not a 501c3, your donations aren’t tax deductible.

2. What is Their Mission?

Understanding the charity’s mission and what they affect is critical. Every dollar you give is an investment to that mission, so make sure you know exactly where your money is going.

3. Does Their Mission Line Up With Your Personal Philosophy?

Whether it’s supporting women in your community or pushing back against unethical manufacturing , choose a charity that fits with your lifestyle, belief systems, and personal goals. However, it’s not uncommon to support more than one organization — many people support local, regional and global organizations concurrently.

4. Is the Mission Sustainable and Scalable?

While all non-profit organizations hope to be sustainable in creating a lasting effect for their missions, make sure your chosen charity has the means to grow and a plan to do so.

5. How Well Do They Manage Their Money?

Look up the organization’s 990 to see the budget they submit to the IRS. The common rule of thumb is that at least 75% of their overall fundraising should go to the actual effort, leaving 25% for overhead expenses like fundraising costs, staff, and program delivery.

6. What’s Their Plan for Your Donation?

You should know what your charity proposes to do with your money. Many of the larger organizations spell out exactly what they’re doing with your donation during the solicitation process — whether it’s online, by phone, or via mail. For smaller charities, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions before you sign the check.

7. When Was the Charity Founded and How Long Has it Been Active?

Make sure the organization you’re considering is solvent and has been active for a period of time. There’s nothing worse than giving to a cause only to find out it’s no longer active.

8. Is the Impact of the Organization Measurable?

It’s easy to let this slide in your overall search, but if your organization doesn’t have plans for reporting or measuring its impact, it may not be worth your time.

9. Does the Organization Have Ways to Interact and Grow a Relationship With You?

Many organizations need help calling attention to their mission. If you’re social media savvy, consider using your voice (and profile) to boost your charity. Many organizations offer tools to help you spread the word about your choice via social media or volunteering opportunities.

The gift you give could even be matched by your employer. Don’t hesitate to poke around a website and then ask questions — many have a chat option for this reason. You may think a small donation isn’t worth the effort, but your gift becomes something larger when joined with others.

10. How Does it Make You Feel to Give to This Organization?

Even if you don’t have much to give, giving to others will help you realize your capacity to love. Also, giving can strengthen your spiritual life and bring about a feeling of inner peace and contentment. You should feel a sense of well-being and purpose knowing you’ve sacrificed money and/or time to help others in need. If you don’t feel warm, happy, and peaceful when you give a gift, chances are you’re supporting the wrong organization.

Last modified on January 11th, 2018

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