By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting
An article recently published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy says that donors plan to be more strategic about giving this year, focusing their efforts on organizations that demonstrate success. If you are a young professional who is planning to give to a new charity or give more to your favorite charity this year, it’s important to make sure that the organization is worthy of your donation, but what does that mean and how do you find more information on the organization’s results?
Be present at the organization
Whether you’re volunteering or taking a site tour, directly observing the organization’s day-to-day operations will give you a picture of where your money is going. Pay attention to the number of clients being served, the programs that are offered and the hours of operation, among other things. I recommend calling the organization first (if you are not a current volunteer) to inquire about getting involved; calling first ensures that someone will have the time to answer your questions, show you around and find out more about your interest in the organization. It also demonstrates your respect for any privacy or confidentiality policies the organization may have.
Visit the organization’s website
Take the time to peruse the organization’s website and click on anything that grabs your attention. Pay particular attention to the mission, vision and annual reports if they are available. Websites are also a great source of quotes, photos and other resources that will give you the clients’ perspectives on why the nonprofit is essential to them. If the website links to any social media sites, visit those as well for up-to-the minute information and events.
Search the web
Visiting websites like GuideStar and Google can provide insight that the organization’s website does not. If there are no financials on the website or the financials are very outdated, use the free resource GuideStar to search for annual reports, 990s and other documents. Doing a quick Google search of the organization will bring up any media coverage and sites that link to the organization, which will give you an idea of the organization’s social impact.
Ask other donors
If friends, family or coworkers give to the organization, ask them why. While there is no need to interrogate them, do ask them to explain what the organization means to them and ways in which they think the organization is successful. Most donors love sharing a cause that is near and dear to their heart and will be happy to share their perspective. This honest feedback from a trusted acquaintance could help inform your decision as a potential donor.
If you are looking for a worthy cause to give your hard-earned dollars to, remember that there are layers to success and you should examine multiple facets of the charity. The more you know the more confident you will feel about your decision to donate.
How do you decide which organizations to donate to? If you have tips, share them in the comments section below.