Tips for Choosing a Charity
People of all income levels choose to donate to a charity for many reasons. For some, this is a personal decision while for others; it is done for more practical purposes. Regardless of the reasons why one decides to donate, it is important to make a wise decision on which charity to support. This is a decision that may be more complicated than one might realize. One of the reasons for this is the sheer number of charitable organizations that are available to choose from. This article has been prepared by Action Donation Services®, a “for-profit” company who contracts with and provides property donation services (donated cars, boats, RVs, etc.) for over 300 of America’s best known charities. We hope this article will be helpful to anyone who is considering where to donate and/or where to volunteer their services.
Charitable organizations are typically non-profit organizations that benefit the public interest. Examples of various types of charities include religious, civic, or scientific groups. With research, one can ensure that he or she selects the right charity. Investigating the suitability of any given charity involves looking beyond the surface image that is presented on promotional materials. By investigating behind the scenes, a person can ensure that an organization is operating as a legitimate charity. With a little research, a person will have the best chance of choosing a charity that best represents his or her belief or cause.
A simple way to ensure that a charity is legitimate and best suited to ones beliefs, it is best to contact the organization. When contacting to the representative of the charity, ask about organization goals, how donated dollars are spent, and what percentage of the donation goes toward the intended goal or service. Any genuine charity will have no problem answering any questions that a potential donor may have. An organization that refuses to answer question should raise red flags of concern. Asking how much of each donation actually goes toward the intended goal or service is necessary to ensure that a majority of one’s contribution is being used for the purpose that it was intended. Typically, a charity should apply no less than 60 percent of its money toward the main cause.
Another way to find out valuable information about a charity is to read any publicly accessible reports that the company makes available. Any media coverage over a span of several years is a way to learn of any problems or concerns regarding the organization. Media coverage highlights programs that the organization has made available and any other activities that it is associated with.
A majority of nonprofit organizations must file an IRS Form 990—the Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax—annually. Viewing this form is important as it provides detailed information regarding the organization’s finances. It also shows the charity’s expenses, how they are being spent on the stated purpose, and how much. A charity’s IRS Form 990 can be found through various websites such as the Foundation Center or GuideStar.
Oversight organizations are another option to consider. These organizations are designed to keep tabs on charities and their activities. They typically publish information on various organizations, which is helpful for those searching for the perfect charity.
The Internet provides numerous ways to find legitimate, pre-screened charities. This is typically done by using a charity listing service. Using a listing service is a good option for those who don’t have the time to conduct research on their own. By using this service, someone is able to review information about a number of charities and their causes.
For people who prefer not to donate to individual charities, they may choose a non-profit support organization, such as the United Way or CanDo. These types of organizations typically work with numerous charities. When donations are received, the support organization distributes it to charities they work with as donations are typically distributed in the form of grants. This method makes it simple for a person to donate to a number of legitimate charities at the same time.
The following links are a sampling of a few well-recognized and reliable charities and/or non-profits providing service to children and youth, veterans, religious organizations, fighting disease, animals and the environment, support for the homeless, the needy and education:
- Special Olympics
- The Huntsman Cancer Foundation
- Ronald McDonald House Charities
- North American Bluebird Society
- Boat U.S. Foundation
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America
- Burn Institute
- Paralyzed Veterans Association – Mountain States
- National Multiple Sclerosis Society
- University of Missouri, St. Louis
- Girl Scouts of America, Los Angeles
- Boy Scouts of America, Verdugo Hills
- Veterans Village
- Assistance League
- Lay Mission Helpers
- Blue Bear School of Music
- California Institute of Integral Studies
- Defeat Diabetes Foundation
- Lions, Tigers & Bears