Many people have the desire to help the less fortunate but don’t know where to begin. Some may even feel skeptical because of charitable organizations using funds fraudulently. In this module, we will provide you with some tips to consider when supporting a charitable organization.
Find The Right Charity
Finding the right charity is often most difficult step to giving. There are thousands of charities to choose from, so how do you know which to support? The task is often so daunting and overwhelming that it deters people from donating altogether. Don’t let that be you!
In your quest to give to those less fortunate, you should find out exactly where your passion lies. Make a list of issues you are deeply concerned about by asking yourself questions, such as:
- Do you want a charity that feeds meals to homeless people in your community, or one that has a more global outlook and aims to feed to poor and needy in developing countries?
- Have you had a family member suffer from a particular disease, and now you want to help find a cure?
- Are you concerned about the education in your area or in other parts of the world? Do you want to help build schools in remote locations or purchase books for inner-city American children?
- Do you feel everyone should have clean water to drink?
- Have you been through a natural disaster or know of people who have, and now want to contribute to help others through one?
By finding out which issues are of most concern to you, you can then create a detailed list of charities that match these concerns. Once you have your list in place, you can then narrow it down to one or two charities that you feel you can help in some way.
Do Your Research
With one or two charities in mind, it’s time to delve deeper into what makes these organizations tick. What seems like a positive and inspiring organization may not look as good when you do more research. There are three main considerations for any charitable organization:
- Is the organization ethical?
- Are donations handled efficiently?
- Does the organization have effective outcomes?
Check the Financials
If you plan to donate money, where are your funds going? It is important to understand that no matter where you donate, 100% of your funds will not go directly to the cause; every charity needs to pay administrative and funding costs. However, ideally, you would like to see at least 75% of the budget going towards programs and services sponsored by the organization, with only 15% and 10% allotted for administration and fundraising, respectively.
If the numbers for the organization aren’t transparent, proceed with caution – there’s a good chance your money won’t go where you want it to go. Additionally, steer clear of charities that are cutting existing programs. If they decide to close shop, you may not get a refund. As a rule of thumb, a healthy organization grows at a rate of approximately 3%-%% per year.
Consider using the following websites to help you check out the financials of the charities you desire to assist:
- Charity Navigator
- Charity Watch
- Give Well
- Great Non-Profits
- Foundation Center
Learn More About the Organization
Even if the financials are strong, you should still do more research into the organization. Learn what the mission is of each organization you desire to help, and then try to find concrete examples of its accomplishments. You may also consider doing the following in this phase of your research:
- Speak to a representative over the phone or in person if the charity is local
- Read testimonials and referrals
- Conduct Internet research using GoogleNews to see if your charity is clear of controversy
Taking these additional steps may seem like a bit of overkill, but you will be able to feel confident and secure investing in the charity you desire and its cause for years to come.
Make The Most Impact
To make the greatest impact on a cause you have passion about, you need to support that cause year after year – not just one time on a whim. The following will provide you with some tips about supporting charitable organizations.
The following are some ideas to consider when you decide you are going to donate money to an organization of your choice:
- Never donate cash. When the time comes to make a donation, be sure to either write a check or donate on a secure website; never donate cash. Why? It is more difficult to track where cash came from and where it’s going.
- Share your decision with others. To maximize your impact, discuss the charitable organization of your choice (and its mission) with friends and family. Sharing your decision to give via word of mouth and/or social media posts means that your donation could be compounded by the charity of your friends, neighbors and family members. Additionally, check to see if your employer will match your donation for even more impact.
Donating Time, Talents and Other
If you are not in the position to donate money, there are many other ways you can make an impact at your chosen charity:
- Donate your time. If the charitable organization is local, you can find out how to volunteer where needed. Most charities are short-handed and in need of volunteers on a regular basis (and especially during the holidays).
- Donate your talents. Many charitable organizations will hold “Silent Auctions” to raise funds during the holidays, or will have notices for “needs” on websites or at the location itself. One of the greatest gifts you can give to any organization is your free talent, such as massages, musical support or performances, graphic design, free marketing, etc.
- Donate your belongings. Many charitable organizations are in need of gently used items that can be resold or distributed to lose in need. You may want to call ahead to find out the immediate needs of the organization so you can provide exactly what is needed.
- Donate food. Many charitable organizations are in need of food items – especially during the holidays. Find out what is needed and donate accordingly. You may hold a food drive on your own with family, friends and co-workers to help fill that need as well.
Whatever the case may be, opening your heart to a charitable organization is one of the best ways you can contribute to society. Do what you can, when you can. You’ll find that even the smallest amount of time or money you can contribute will help another in need. But, be smart about the charity you support, and be consistent with your donation (no matter what it may be) to have the impact your desire.