Five Simple Steps to Better Giving

Follow these five simple steps to ensure that you give with your head as well as your heart.


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Clarify your values

Charities are as diverse as their donors. Be proactive and don’t just give to the first one that solicits you! Consider the type of charity you want to support—small or large; star-up or established; local, national, or international.


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Focus on the mission

Make sure a nonprofit has an easy-to-understand mission that aligns with your principles and beliefs. You can look up a specific nonprofit in GuideStar’s database of more than 1.8 million organizations, or use the advanced search to find charities by category, size, and location.


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Get the facts.

Dig deeper once you find a nonprofit that meets your basic requirements. Pay attention to factors that are most relevant to nonprofit performance—results, transparency, and leadership—but don’t buy in to the Overhead Myth. Remember: there are no stories without numbers, and no numbers without  stories. Visit a nonprofit’s website. Read its annual report. And turn to its GuideStar Nonprofit Profile for an easy indication of its transparency. Look for a Bronze, Silver, or Gold logo on its profile in order to research mission statements, financial statistics, and impact and effectiveness information.


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Verify legitimacy

Let’s face it: there are sham nonprofits out there. If you see a big green check mark next to “Registered with the IRS” on a nonprofit’s GuideStar Nonprofit Profile, you know it’s legitimate. No check mark means that further investigation is required:

  • If the charity is not on Guidestar, ask to see its IRS letter of determination.
  • If the organization is faith based, ask to see its official listing in a directory for its denomination.


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Trust your instincts

If you have concerns about a charity, don’t contribute. Instead, find another nonprofit that does similar work but makes you feel more comfortable. Remember, reputable charities:

  • Are willing to send you literature about their work, or direct you to their website.
  • Don’t use pressure tactics.
  • Take “no” for an answer.


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Tools and Resources

General Charity Research

Overhead Myth—nonprofit financial accountability is important. Financial ratios, however, reveal little about a nonprofit's effectiveness. GuideStar, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Charity Navigator have joined forces to help donors and nonprofits focus on the metrics that matter most: those that show how well an organization is accomplishing its mission.

Focusing on Nonprofit Impact—the impact tabs in our nonprofit reports pull together information that can help you assess individual organizations' impact.

Donor Bill of Rights—donors have rights. Do you know what they are?

Questions to Ask a Nonprofit before Investing in It—use these questions to guide conversations with nonprofits you're thinking of supporting.

Articles Especially for Donors—learn more from these articles on giving effectively.

Disaster Relief and Recovery

Giving to Disaster Relief and Recovery—when disaster strikes, people want to help. Unfortunately, it's not always clear which nonprofits can respond most effectively, or even if some organizations asking for donations are legitimate. Here are five tips to help you give wisely.

Why You Should Consider Giving an Unrestricted Gift—we get it; you want to give now, to help people affected by this disaster. But take a step back so that you help as many people as possible, both now and in the future.

Charities Learn to Turn Away Support Offered by Donors Who Are Overcome with Sympathy—donors are sometimes surprised when nonprofits decline gifts. Here's why certain types of gifts can impede the organizations' effectiveness.

Help Those Affected by the European Refugee Crisis

Help Nepal Earthquake Survivors

Help Those Caught in the Ebola Crisis

Helping Typhoon Haiyan Survivors

Hurricane Sandy Recovery

Tornado Recovery

Donor Research

Money for Good identifies what donors' motivations for giving and how those motivations affect philanthropy in general.

Expert Reviews and Analyses

TakeAction@GuideStar provides expert analyses of nearly 40 causes and lists the organizations experts have identified as having the most impact in those areas.