Throughout the last quarter of 2016, especially in the wake of the election, I sought to spread positivity and good vibes. One of the ways I did that was through donating to local non-profits. While I chose to give my money and time to local organizations, it got me thinking: with so many non-profits out there, how in the world is anyone supposed to know which ones are the “good ones?” That being said, I will not tell you I think you should give your money to. Rather, I want to encourage that you research non-profits you are interested in donating to before you click that “Donate” button on their websites.
Today’s blog post is in honor of my grandmother. She always encouraged my family to value education and to be kind. I’m combining both of those values in today’s blog post. May you take today’s blog post and use it to educate yourselves in order to make an informed decision regarding organizations that provide help for others.
Why should you research non-profits in the first place?
I understand how effortful it can be to do any kind of research. Historically, you do a lot of research during your schooling and for good reason. Research equips you with more information about a topic to help make something easier: writing a paper, making an argument and even donating money.
In terms of non-profits, research informs you of how the non-pofit is run and who is running it, what the non-profit values and, perhaps most important, what your donation will get used for. This doesn’t sound so scary, now does it?
Fun fact: there are 29 different categories of non-profits. Just another reason why it’s important to do your research.
(More on the blog: Different Ways You Can Give Back)
Okay, you get it. Now how should you actually research non-profits?
Pre-Research Phase: Before you get your wallet out, get a pen and paper out. Write down the causes that are important to you. Once you do that, write down what you would like your money to go towards. Yes, you can do that and you should do this. Do you want your donation to fund research? Rehab? Means of support? Awareness?
Now it’s time to open up your favorite Internet browser and search engine and get to searching. Before writing this post, I did research of my own. Here are the things that Charitynavigator.org suggests you look out for:
- Watch Out For Names That Sound Similar – You may stumble across non-profits that have similar sounding names. Similar names, doesn’t by any means signal similar performance. That being said, if you like what one organization does (or says they do), continue your research on them. Determine for yourself, which organize is the right one and actually does what they claim.
Remember, things to look for in your research:
What does the organization do? How do they help?
How does the non-profit run? Who runs it?
- Confirm the company’s non-profit status – What does this mean? Earlier I mentioned that there are 29 different categories of non-profits; this is how they are classified. On their website, the non-profit must disclose under which classification they fall. Compare the non-profit’s classification with this list of classification descriptions to determine if it aligns with your values.
- How is the CEO paid? Yes, non-profits have a CEO. As with any large company, there is a hierarchy of leadership that is filled with professionals who receive a competitive salary. Charity Navigator has performed several studies in recent years regarding the compensation of non-profit leadership. They found that the average salary for a non-profit CEO is $150,000. They recommend that you hold this salary in line with the amount and quality of work the organization delivers. For example, it may be wiser to donate to an organization that pays their CEO well AND consistently delivers great charitable work than the opposite.
- Recent News – Many non-profits will list recent media mentions in a section on their website, however, those feeds may be biased to show only positive news. I highly recommend typing in the non-profit’s name into a search engine and checking out the ‘News’ results that appear. After doing so, read more than just the headlines of them all. You will benefit more from reading a handful of articles/interviews than merely reading the headlines.
(More on the blog: Why it is Important to Read)
Like with any other skill or topic of interest, it’s important to stay current on happenings within non-profits that are important to you. I hope you found this post helpful and use it as a guide to help you discover non-profits that you support. If you have other tips for donating to non-profits, I’d love to hear them!
What do you consider when you donate to a non-profit?