A Giving Heart & A Skeptical Mind
It seems the more we are blessed with in life, the more we want to give back. But we have found that some people just don’t—not because they are “Scrooges” with a cold heart. If fact, some of them have the biggest hearts imaginable. Their reluctance is because they are skeptical of the charities receiving the money. After all, how do you know what you are giving to is actually using your money for the reason you want to give in the first place?
So, is there a way to know if the money you give will be used the way you intended? After all, if you have something that touches your heart wouldn’t be great to know you’re helping out effectively?
We have put together the following information as a resource for you to use when you are thinking about giving. Just simply follow the questions.
#1 Is the cause you want to support local? These are nonprofits like a crisis center, Meals on Wheels, food pantry, volunteer fire department, a hospital, your place of worship. Local charities like these often need the most help. They do not have the advertisement, recognition or resources to raise money. However, vetting them can also be the most involved process simply because there is not much information on the web about a small nonprofit. We recommend the following:
- Use the IRS’ Nonprofit Charities Database to make sure the charity is in fact a “nonprofit.” The Exempt Organizations Select Check Tool will allow you to enter the name of the charity and verify that it is exempt through 501(c)(3) status.
- Talk to the charity—a board member or director is a good start. Local nonprofits are easy to talk to. Often times you will get a good or bad feeling just by talking to someone. Remember that charities all have administrative costs and be reasonable about your expectations of it. A red flag might be if the charity claims that 100 percent of all donations go straight to the charitable purpose. If you don’t know what to ask, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance may help. This website evaluates bigger charities based on twenty standards. Although your local charity won’t be on there, you can look at these twenty standards to form your questions.
- Be responsible in the way you give. Don’t give your credit card information over the phone to someone soliciting donations. And when in doubt, but still wishing to contribute, consider non-cash gifts—supplies, food, clothing, equipment.
#2 Is the cause closest to your heart supported by a large charity? Although this is where a lot of corruption may occur and overhead expenses are necessarily higher than local charities, it is fairly easy to see if your charity is on the up and up.
- Charity Navigator is a great “bird’s eye” view of a non-profit. It is easy to understand and gives you the lowdown on things like the financial health of the organization and the allocation of its resources. Their 4-star ratings and chart provide an excellent overview with links to more information.
- Another favorite is the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. As mentioned above this website evaluates bigger charities based upon twenty standards—good ones. Does sixty-five percent of the funds go to program activities? Is more than ten percent going to members serving on the board? Are there any material conflicts? You are looking for a twenty out of twenty score or you may want to reconsider.
- If you are still skeptical, take a look at Charity Watch, which is known for exposing instances of abuse. They also have a set criterion that they follow to help the donor make an informed decision on an easy to follow website.
- Give responsibly. Legitimate non-profits of this size will have secure ways to give. Do not give your credit card information over the phone.
Don’t let the corruption of a few turn you into Scrooge this holiday season. Do a little homework; call us to help if in doubt and Happy Giving!