Want to make a contribution toward a worthy cause? Whether it’s to help the homeless in your area, contribute toward a cure for cancer, or provide disaster relief to the afflicted in a remote country, there are so many ways you can help make the world a better place.
The challenge isn’t finding a worthy charity: there are so many. The key issue that most people struggle with is which charity to give to – and how to make sure the money or goods you give have the greatest impact possible for what the charity is trying to accomplish.
Below are Three Giving Guidelines that can help you make charitable contributions that count.
1. Decide what’s important to you.
You may feel strongly that you want to give toward needs in your own backyard. Or, you might want to give to a large non-profit that accomplishes its mission on a global scale. You may want to give toward a cause that has had a direct impact on you or a family member. First, find your passion: more than likely there is a charity out there that is affiliated with your cause. There is no shortage of charities: According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. Pick what you’re passionate about, and then do your research into what charities are tackling the issue, either locally or globally.
2. Get informed about the charities you are considering.
A good place to begin is one of a few websites that rate and review charities. For example Charity Navigator rates non-profits on their financial health, accountability and transparency using a star-rating system. CharityWatch.org is an independent charity watchdog that grades 600 major charities from “A+” to “F” Everyone is interested in the answer to the question, “How much of each dollar goes toward the actual cause, and how much goes toward overhead?” However, in 2013 a campaign called, “The Overhead Myth” was started to better educate donors on what factors – not just overhead – should be considered when evaluating a non-profit. The recommendation is to look at a number of indicators above and beyond overhead, such as transparency, governance, leadership, and results. (For more information see http://www.overheadmyth.com). In short, the most effective charities are rated highly in all these areas, not just financial ratios.
3. Don’t overlook smaller charities.
The watchdog sites only rank the largest of the major charities in the U.S. But you may have a cause close to your heart that is being tackled by a smaller charity. If so, get to know the charity. All charities are required to file an annual Form 990 with the IRS, which provides information about organization’s financial and governance practices. Review the non-profit’s materials, web, and social sites. Call the charity and ask about its results. A good checklist for questions to ask can be found here on the Charity Navigator website. In short, you should do your homework before making any major financial commitment to a charity.
Giving for Good
Wherever you put your donation dollars, you should feel good about giving to the charity of your choice. You may want to take a step further and get more involved with your charity by volunteering or participating in fundraising initiatives. It’s entirely up to you. By giving to a good cause, you not only help solve real problems and meet real needs, but you also foster and promote a generous spirit. And there’s no way to put a monetary number on that.
For information on the Hanscom FCU Charitable Foundation, visit www.hfcucharity.org.