Checking on Charities
Whether donating time or money, you will want to make sure you're supporting a worthy charity and one that meets your standards. So before giving to any charity, do your homework. Phone calls may sound convincing, but be careful about giving out any personal information over the phone, especially credit card or social security numbers.
There are unscrupulous people who will collect money in the name of charity only to use it for themselves. Unfortunately, these people can give all charities a bad name. There is information available that can be used to determine how forthright a charity is, helping to make sure that your money is going to help legitimate causes.
You can do a background check to see how much of the money collected actually goes to charitable deeds, not to administrative support or fundraising work. Some fundraising companies are for profit and keep a large portion of what they collect for themselves.
Beware of copycat charities. Some charities will intentionally give themselves names similar to other more popular and reputable organizations in the hope that people will be confused. If the name doesn't match exactly, it's not the same charity.
There are a number of organizations that provide valuable information on charities, making donating a safer and more rewarding experience. Here is a list of some of those organizations:
Charity Navigator rates charities on a scale of one to four stars. Through analysis of federal financial statements, organizations are rated on characteristics such as expenses, earnings, and efficiency. You can search by cause and compare different organizations with each other. The site provides contact information for each organization and offers a portal for donations.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance performs analyses of national charities to provide donors with information so they can make informed decisions. Charities that meet standards receive the Alliance's National Charity Seal.
GuideStar brings together donors and foundations with businesses and government agencies. The organization maintains a database of information including IRS forms, employee information, and grant activity on charities that is searchable by donors at different membership levels.
JustGive allows donors to find charities that are important to them. You can give money on the Web site and set up accounts for others to donate to the same charity. JustGive administers wish lists for donors to use, requesting friends and family to give to certain charities.
The I Do Foundation allows happy couples to set up charitable wedding registries. Wedding guests can contribute to charity in lieu of giving a wedding gift. The site also allows the bride and groom to donate in a guest's name instead of giving out wedding favors. The site includes helpful ideas for charitable weddings, including donating wedding dresses, flowers, and leftover food.
Sites like these give credibility to those charities that deserve and improve the altruistic community as a whole. Knowing which organizations will use contributed money most wisely helps donors feel even better about giving.