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Search GiveSpot or Google |   Great Must-See sites   |   Read Articles and Lists | Find answers
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Evaluating Charities

Many of us want to share our blessings with those less fortunate. There are thousands of charities serving the needs of children, the homeless and others, and they rely on the public's donations to provide their services.

But how can we be certain that an organization asking for our contribution is legitimate? How can we be assured that the money is going where it will do the most good? After all, your donations work harder when you give to groups that spend responsibly.

Background Research

To evaluate a nonprofit group, Give.org suggests asking for a written statement with the exact name of the group, the organization's purpose, how the group achieves its goals and how much of your dollar is used for true charitable purposes. Some fraudulent groups use "sound-alike" names to make you think you're giving to a reputable organization. Other groups with good intentions do not have a clear operating plan, meaning that your donation may not be well spent. You'll find lots of helpful information at the bureau's Tips on Giving and Frequently Asked Questions.

It's important to consider whether you want to give to a national or local charity. Perhaps you want to give your money to an organization with a proven track record or help a new group get off the ground. Charitable Choices offers suggestions in Thoughts about Choosing Charities to Support.




The Better Business Bureau's Philanthropic Advisory Service, affiliated with Give.org, covers mail appeals, street solicitation and tax questions at Tips on Charitable Giving. Independent Sector offers Ten Tips on Giving Wisely and a list of who to contact to investigate an organization. The Federal Trade Commission has more tips and links in its Charity Fraud section. In How to Read a Nonprofit Financial Statement, the Internet Nonprofit Center advises donors on how to spot a responsible charity.

The beginning philanthropist should check out the American Institute of Philanthropy. Its stated mission is "to maximize the effectiveness of every dollar contributed to charity by providing donors with the information they need to make more informed giving decisions." The site contains tips and answers to frequently asked questions, and you can order a copy of their "Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report."

Locate Charities

Now that you've learned more about charitable giving, how do you find charities that are involved in causes you feel strongly about? These sites will help you find the right organizations, research their reputability and contact them. In some cases, you can make a donation online.

  • America's Charities
    This coalition of charitable organizations provides services in local communities, across the United States and around the world. The site offers links to hundreds of groups and you can donate online.

  • Independent Charities of America
    The mission of this group is to gather high-quality charities for giver consideration, help givers find the charities that are doing work they'd like to support and to help charities reduce overhead by putting them in touch with possible donors.

  • Charitable Choices
    The Combined Federal Campaign compiled more than 300 charities that met its 10 accountability standards. You can make an online donation to many of them.

  • GuideStar
    Search GuideStar's database of more than 700,000 U.S. nonprofit organizations to find detailed financial information and links to charity sites.




   --- J. Walker

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