Donating money to charities requires trust that it will go toward their cause; unfortunately, some have excessive overhead costs that siphon off nearly all your donation without benefitting their cause at all.
Charity Navigator provides an effective means of verifying if a charity is trustworthy. Here are a few things to look out for:
Don’t Give Money to Organizations That Come to Your Door
Choose the appropriate charity based on your values and interests. Conduct some research into what matters most to you, then search for organizations which align with them. It’s also essential that the money given goes toward actually helping those in need.
Charity watchdogs can be an invaluable asset. These organizations regularly review charities and assign grades or ratings that include information such as how a charity raises, spends and governs its funds. Most can be found online with many offering free accounts that allow users to view financial data like 990 forms and staff listings of nonprofits.
If an organization approaches you asking for donations, be sure to ask about its transparency and use of funds before giving. If they cannot provide these details, it would be best to avoid giving money.
Be wary of sound-alike charities with similar names to well-established, high-rated ones. Some groups may attempt to trick donors by intentionally copying these high-rated charities; other might simply have chosen names too similar. As an example, National Veterans Services Fund shares many similarities with Breast Cancer Foundation; thus causing potential donors to give unwittingly.
Don’t Give Money to Organizations That Are Pushy
Many charities will approach you via mail, email and telephone for donations. Their appeals may feature striking headlines and emotional stories to get donations immediately from donors; it would be wiser not to donate directly. It’s best to steer clear of organizations which pressure donors into giving money quickly.
Reason being that it is impossible to know exactly where and how your donation will go; any given organization could turn out to be scammer-run or just waste too much on administrative costs while not doing what they promise to.
If you receive a donation request from an organization and are uncertain as to their legitimacy, check its status with one of the three charity watchdogs – BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator or CharityWatch. Their experts will inform you what percentage of funds actually go toward supporting its mission versus operating and fundraising costs.
As part of their response to COVID-19 pandemic, several nonprofits have provided tremendous help in treating hospitals and facilities for COVID patients. Direct Relief has done much in this regard by providing medical supplies and vaccines directly to those afflicted by it.
Donating to nonprofits focused on civil rights and social justice is another effective way of helping those in need, including Color of Change and Black Lives Matter – two such groups boast over 7 million members combined! Both offer campaigns promoting racial equity as well as innovative solutions.
Don’t Give Money to Organizations That Don’t Provide Details
If you feel pressured into making an immediate donation, always inquire as to where it will go and who it benefits from. Most charities should be able to provide such details, but if they cannot it would likely be best suited for other causes.
Keep in mind that some charities may not actually be charitable at all. Some for-profit companies contract professional fundraisers to collect funds on their behalf and only a portion of your donation actually reaches its intended destination – such companies could use emotional manipulation and intimidation tactics to pressure you into giving money.
An effective way of checking a charity is through charity watchdog websites like CharityWatch, GiveWell or Guidestar that offer ratings of various organizations. Simply type the name of an organization into their respective search boxes to see their scorecard rankings.
Any charity that won’t provide you with their directors and officers contact information should be treated as suspicious, as this may indicate it’s illegitimate. To be on the safe side, giving should only occur through credit card or direct check made payable directly to them.
Don’t Give Money to Organizations That Aren’t Transparent
Charity missions and goals should be clearly articulated on their website or other public materials so donors can make informed decisions about which charities to support and which ones not to support. Donors should look for charities with transparent goals, financial statements and proven effectiveness – this transparency can especially benefit young donors, who might otherwise choose another cause if they can’t see how their donations have had an effect.
When searching for a trustworthy charity, consider consulting the ratings from watchdog groups. These groups evaluate organizations by monitoring spending and programs as well as verifying that they are tax-exempt. Watchdog groups can be easily found online or by contacting individual charities directly.
Some charities have garnered negative press because they fail to spend most of their funds for their intended causes or misspend donations, or operate with ineffective programs that make minimal impact despite raising significant sums of money.
If you are uncertain of an organization, get recommendations from friends and family to determine its legitimacy. Visit its website as well as resources like Charity Navigator or GuideStar to gather more information about it. Donors should also ensure that their data privacy policies comply with GDPR, CCPA, SHIELD requirements.