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; start-up or established; local, national, or international.
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 2.4 million current and historic organizations, or use the search filters to find charities by category, size, and location.
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, Gold, or Platinum logo on its profile in order to research mission statements, financial statistics, and impact and effectiveness information.
Let’s face it: there are sham nonprofits out there. If you find a nonprofit on GuideStar with our Search, you know the IRS recognizes it as tax exempt. (GuideStar Pro include information on defunct organizations, but those profiles are clearly marked.) If you can’t find a charity, further investigation is required:
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:
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.
Donors have rights. Do you know what they are?
Use these questions to guide conversations with nonprofits you're thinking of supporting.
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