NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


| Share

Which Charity is For You?

Which Charity is For You?


            In the wake of the earthquake in Nepal, people are opening their hearts and their wallets to help victims rebuild their lives. But for every reputable and established charity, there is one that’s mismanaged, financially insolvent, and possibly fraudulent. Before making a donation to any organization, learn how to evaluate a charity’s fitness, making sure that the most money goes where it’s needed.

            An organization’s finances are perhaps the best indication of its health. Give only to charities that have a 501©3 designation with the IRS, meaning that they are registered nonprofit and tax-exempt companies and that your donations are tax-deductible. Legitimate charities will have their paperwork in order, and that paperwork is available to anyone who wishes to see it.

            Be specific about what you want to support. Any charity should also be able to briefly and clearly tell you exactly what it is, exactly what it does, and why it’s necessary. If a representative of a charity can’t be any more specific than “we support AIDS victims” or “we help children,” be wary. By assisting a charity with a specific mission, you’ll have a better idea of exactly how your money is being spent.

             If a charity is important to you, seek out its Web site and give to it directly. Unless you’ve agreed to be on their mailing list, legitimate charities don’t generally solicit via email, so email requests are likely spam. Although online giving is usually the fastest and easiest way to get money to a deserving charity, make sure that you visit its real Web site, not a look-alike meant to trick those with more generosity than Web savvy. The “Benevolence of the Red Cross,” for example, is not the same as the American Red Cross. If any site asks you for your Social Security number or birth date, stop the transaction immediately.

            Have you ever wondered how much of your charitable donation is used to pay administrative or fundraising fee and how much ends up supporting the program or service you are donating to? Even when the charity is legitimate they may pay their professional fundraisers so much money that a significant portion of your donation is eaten up by administrative costs, fees and employee payrolls. There are organizations that track charities and rank them according to their financial health. They rank them using several criteria such as overhead, ratings, efficiency and just about everything you need to guide you in your decision making process.

            Below are some of the websites that have tremendous resources related to charitable giving:

  • Charity Navigator – America’s premier independent charity evaluator, works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of America’s largest charities. http://www.charitynavigator.org/
  • Charity Guide – Ratings for nationally known charities broken down by category.
  • http://www.charityguide.org/

  • American Institute of Philanthropy – The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) is a nationally prominent charity watchdog service whose purpose is to help donors make informed giving decisions. http://www.charitywatch.org/
  • Give.org – BBB Wise Giving Alliance. The Alliance reports on nationally soliciting charitable organizations that are the subject of donor inquiries. These reports include an evaluation of the subject charity in relation to the voluntary BBB charity standards.
  • http://www.give.org/

    Creative Commons License
    Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.