Choosing a charity is usually a matter of understanding the group’s work, researching how donations are used, and making sure that the organization’s goals line up with your own. Donating money to charity is something that a lot of people want to do, but deciding where to donate can be challenging in part because there are so many different options. In most cases, giving money to the first organization that asks is not a good strategy. Investment experts almost always recommend that donors do their research before writing a check and choose a charity based on facts, not feelings.
Finding a charity to receive your donation might be harder than it seems. Deciding on a cause is usually the first step, but even this does not always narrow down the field very much. Many different groups exist for almost every cause imaginable, from rescuing abused animals and cleaning up polluted waterways to helping orphaned children abroad. Some are politically or religiously slanted, as well. Once you know the types of charities you are interested in supporting, you will need to do some research to narrow the choice down to a few contenders.
Location is an easy place to start. Many charities solicit donations nationally, or even internationally in some cases. If you are hoping to support organizations that work primarily in your community, larger organizations may not be where you want your money to go.
Charity legitimacy is also a threshold concern when choosing a charity. Unfortunately, fraudulent charities exist nearly everywhere. These organizations may promote themselves as dedicated to a specific cause, but they use donations for some other purpose altogether.
In order to determine whether a charity really does what it says it does, you will usually need to consult outside sources. A number of charity rating companies, donation management organizations, and even some government agencies rank charities based on a number of factors and flag known scams. Contact a few of these organizations for background information before choosing a charity and completing your donation.
Even if a group is legitimate, it may not use its donations wisely. Before donating to charity, it is usually a good idea to make sure that your money will be smartly managed. Some charities spend far more on employee salaries and fundraising campaigns then they do actually supporting their banner causes. If you want the majority of your donation to go directly to helping some group or cause, be sure to take a look at the charity’s finances and ask about its income distribution.
The vast majority of charities are very open to questions; in many cases, fundraising and outreach managers have been hired for exactly this purpose. Take advantage of this when choosing a charity. Call or visit a representative and ask not only about spending, but also about long-term goals and the organization’s larger strategic vision. Choosing a charity is often as much about finding a worthy cause as it is about giving to a group that you actually care about and want to support.