How to Decide Where to Donate

If you want to help those less fortunate than you, donating money to charity is an obvious choice. But for most people, deciding to donate is the easy part – deciding where to donate is much harder. There are over 1.5 million non-profits in the U.S. alone, and it’s impossible to know what’s going on behind the scenes at any given organization or which one is truly the best. But following these tips will you help you make the most informed choice possible about your charitable giving.

Choose a cause you care about.

There are far more non-profits out there, working on a wider variety of issues than most people realize. Before you donate, take some time to think about the causes you’re most passionate about, whether they’re at home or abroad. If you’re deeply interested in the cause and understand the work that’s being done on it, you’re more likely to have an informed view and be able to donate your money more wisely.

Make sure the organization you give to is legitimate.

When it comes to donating to charity, the most important thing to avoid is supporting an organization that’s not legitimate. Start by verifying that the organization you’re thinking of giving to is a registered non-profit; in the U.S., that means they need to have 501(c)(3) status. But fraudulent organizations sometimes manage to register as non-profits, so this really is just the first step. Doing some Google and social media searches will give you an idea of what people are saying about the organization and should reveal any major scandals or complaints. You can also search for more information and ratings of organizations on GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and CharityWatch.

Watch out for Founder’s Syndrome.

Too many organizations suffer from Founder’s Syndrome or an excessive focus on the founder and their personal story. While these organizations often resonate with the public and attract

If you want to help those less fortunate than you, donating money to charity is an obvious choice. But for most people, deciding to donate is the easy part – deciding where to donate is much harder. There are over 1.5 million non-profits in the U.S. alone, and it’s impossible to know what’s going on behind the scenes at any given organization or which one is truly the best. But following these tips will you help you make the most informed choice possible about your charitable giving.

Choose a cause you care about.

There are far more non-profits out there, working on a wider variety of issues, than most people realize. Before you donate, take some time to think about the causes you’re most passionate about, whether they’re at home or abroad. If you’re deeply interested in the cause and understand the work that’s being done on it, you’re more likely to have an informed view and be able to donate your money more wisely.

Make sure the organization you give to is legitimate.

When it comes to donating to charity, the most important thing to avoid is supporting an organization that’s not legitimate. Start by verifying that the organization you’re thinking of giving to is a registered non-profit; in the U.S., that means they need to have 501(c)(3) status. But fraudulent organizations sometimes manage to register as non-profits, so this really is just the first step. Doing some Google and social media searches will give you an idea of what people are saying about the organization and should reveal any major scandals or complaints. You can also search for more information and ratings of organizations on GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and CharityWatch.

Watch out for Founder’s Syndrome.

Too many organizations suffer from Founder’s Syndrome, or an excessive focus on the founder and their personal story. While these organizations often resonate with the public and attract a huge amount of donations, they’re usually not the best ones to support.

In researching organizations you’re considering supporting, there are a few red flags to be on the lookout for. One of the big ones is “Founder’s Syndrome,” or organizations that seem to revolve around a larger-than-life founder and their own personal stories. Too much reliance on one person, and too much power concentrated in them, often leads to corruption and a lack of sustainability.

Look for transparency.

From their own websites to various social media platforms, non-profits have so many ways to easily communicate with the public. So if you’re having a hard time finding much detail about an organization, you should be suspicious. Reputable organizations should be upfront about what they do, who’s involved, how they function, and who funds their work.

See if their programs are have been evaluated.

Conducting evaluations and creating evidence-based programs is more common in some sectors of the non-profit field than others, and at larger organizations than smaller ones. But commissioning evaluations and using research to back up decisions shows a commitment to learning, improving, and making a the biggest impact possible. In fact, these are some of the main criteria the charity evaluator GiveWell uses to select their recommended organizations. If you want to get the biggest bang for your (donated) buck, the non-profits on their list are a good place to start.

Check the organization’s stances and affiliations.

Before you donate to an organization, do some research on their stances and affiliations – otherwise, you may end up giving to something you don’t actually want to support.

While non-profits are sometimes assumed to be impartial and inherently benevolent, the truth is that many of them hold positions and take actions you may not agree with – but you might not know about it unless you do a little digging. Non-profits as diverse as Boy Scouts and Invisible Children have been accused of anti-LGBT policies, while a number of global aid organizations have evangelical as well as humanitarian missions. Before you decide where to donate, check the policies and affiliations of organizations you’re considering to make sure you don’t end up giving to something you don’t actually support.

How to Decide Where to Donate

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