Nearly every donor wants to be assured their donations will be used wisely.   Doing your own research is the best way to protect yourself as a donor, but can be a daunting task.   GIVINGtrax helps  by providing charity vetting including overview information and links to the non profit organization, charity, or school, their  IRS W-9 Form and a link to all their historical tax records, along with vetting the nonprofit organization, charity or school with the IRS database.

For International Giving, we partner with Global Impact, who enjoys a long-standing relationship with Fortune 500 corporations and also supports the Federal Government’s employee giving campaign, known as the Combined Federal Campaign, in the Washington DC area and also for all deployed forces.  Global Impact vets every charity in their alliance to ensure donations made to support International Giving are helping those organizations that have feet on the ground and are making a difference.

With so many great non profit organizawtions and worthy charity causes out there, how does one choose the right nonprofit for their donation?  Here are five tips to help you get started.

1. Clarify your beliefs and preference.

  • Do this before you open your checkbook, credit card, volunteer your time, or look at that letter from a charity.
  • What matters most to you?    The environment?  Education? Hunger? Animal welfare? Helping sick children? Economic development? Collective Impact?  Capacity Building?
  • Where you want to make an impact?    In your neighborhood? Region? The nation? Internationally?
  • Ask yourself if you want to support a large or small charity, a new or an old one.
  • Are you okay with just donating or do you want feedback on the non profit organizations social impact?

2. Make sure the  mission of the non profit organization or charity aligns with your goals in life and values.

  • Look at a charity’s description in GIVINGtrax, on GuideStar, on its Web site, in its literature, or on Charting Impact.  What are they hoping to accomplish?  What problem are they solving?  What is their vision?  Non profit organizations in GIVINGtrax all use a standard page format that help make research on these topics easy.

3. Verify the charity’s legitimacy.

  • Check the nonprofit 501(c)(3) status in GIVINGtrax, on GuideStar, or directly in the IRS database (online).  You can also access IRS filings on the non profit organization or charity through links within GIVINGtrax to ensure that it is a legitimate tax-exempt organization in good standing with the IRS.

4. Do your research.

  • Look for clear descriptions of a non profit organization or charity’s mission and programs, goals, and achievements. Are the goals measurable?   Does the charity use concrete terms to describe its accomplishments?  Do they share their social impact with donors?
  • If you compare charities, can you compare apples to apples?   Compare charities that do the same kind of work, especially if you’re looking at their finances. The type of work a charity does can affect its operating costs dramatically.  It’s not all about low overhead rates.  We’ve seen amazing charities doing great things solely with volunteer staff and minimal overhead.  Other charities require more non-program related expenses.
  • Avoid charities that won’t share information or pressure you.   Reputable non profit organizations will openly discuss their programs and finances (they’re publicly available),  will not  use pressure tactics, are willing to send you literature about their work or direct you to a Web site, and will take a “no thank-you” for an response to a donation request.

5. Trust your instincts.

If you follow these simple tips you’ll be sure to be protected as a donor.  But, if you still have doubts about a charity, don’t contribute to it.  Instead, find another non profit organization that does the same kind of work and with which you feel comfortable, then make your donation.  Happy donating!