Things to consider when picking an organization to support
When you’re bringing in a regular paycheck, it’s just good form to be generous with your money. That’s not to say you have to give away a huge chunk and then live on a shoestring budget for the month, but maybe you could skip that $4 cold-brew three times a week or not buy your tenth pair of skinny jeans. Making these small sacrifices will leave you with enough cash to give a worthy cause—which raises the question, which causes are actually worthy? Even charities can be guilty of not being entirely transparent with where your money goes and the way they work. Donating blindly without doing your research first might mean that your hard-earned dollars are actually ending up in the pocket of a company’s CEO, and not in the hands of those who really need them. So before you decide to donate to a cause, ask yourself these questions about any potential charity:
- How do you connect to it personally? If your own family has been devastated by Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Association is always funneling money into finding a cure. If you spend most of your morning commute greeting your neighborhood’s homeless community and handing out breakfast sandwiches, the local soup kitchen might be the best decision for donating your extra dollars. Similarly, if you’re affiliated with a church or participate in an organization that does good in your community, it makes sense to give them a portion of your paycheck, too.
- How does it distribute funds? Like any other public organization, charities have a responsibility to be transparent about the way that they operate. This means revealing where monetary donations go. As a general rule, at least 70% of the money taken in by a not-for-profit organization should be going back out to its cause—not to its top administrators and staff. Check out websites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar for an insider look at the finances of your chosen charity.
- What is its IRS status? GuideStar can also tell you whether or not your chosen organization has earned the 501(c)(3) label, which indicates a true not-for-profit group that has met certain benchmarks. Specifically, it tells you that an organization is tax-exempt, which in and of itself is a solid indicator that your chosen charity is doing exactly what it says it’s doing.
- Do you agree with its mission statement? You might be on board with cancer research or preservation of rainforests, but there’s always a chance that the nonprofit you’ve chosen operates under guidelines you don’t agree with or is affiliated with a group that doesn’t jive with your own beliefs. Read an organization’s mission statement in full before committing to giving. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into—and have a good idea of whether or not your own beliefs align with that of the company’s.
- What has it accomplished lately? Just like charities have a responsibility to tell you how much their CEOs make, they should also be able to point to proof that they’ve been meeting goals lately. Make sure your chosen organization is taking visible steps toward its overarching goal and measuring the progress in a quantifiable way.