Choosing a Charity

Choosing a Charity

I have noticed an up-tick in the number of ad's for Charitable Contributions lately. It seems as though everyone from Public Television to Primary Children's Hospital is asking for donations and "pledges of support." In addition, there have been a lot of tragedies lately where the family of the victim has created a "go-fund-me" account or they have set-up an account at a local bank or credit union to accept donations.

With that in mind, I thought I would share some things to consider when choosing a charity to donate too.

  • Give to groups you know.

  • Make sure the charity is the one you think it is:

  • Some charities are based in another State so your donation won’t help your local area.

  • Other charities will use a similar name or a common misspelling in order to get money that was intended for the legitimate organization.

  • Ask if your gift is tax-deductible:

  • Not all charities are non-profits. Many are business and the donation is not tax-deductible.

  • Make sure you understand the group’s work:

  • Investigate how the charity solves the issue. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

  • Make sure the charity it legitimate:

  • GuideStar website lists charities that have registered with the IRS. It doesn’t rank them.

  • BBB Wise Giving Alliance ranks the charities based on compliance with 20 “accountability” standards.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions:

  • Call the charity, make sure you get a real person, and ask a few questions regarding the organization's short and long term goals.

  • Find out about expenses:

  • Charity Navigator evaluates Form 990’s to determine how efficient the charity is and what percentage is spent on administration costs versus actually helping.

  • CharityWatch recommends that at least 60% of your donation goes to the endeavor itself.

  • Think twice before giving to a university or hospital:

  • The old adage that “it takes money to make money” couldn’t be more true than in charity fundraising. Large organizations that you see on T.V. or radio have the money to advertise. Smaller organizations that can’t spend money on advertising may have a greater need and better utilization of those funds.

  • Volunteer:

  • Rather than give an organization your money, give them your time. However, while you're there you can learn about the charity and see if giving them money is the right thing for you.

  • Protect yourself:

  • Look for Red Flags: Charities that involve animals, children, first responders and veterans may use emotional images to generate funds.

  • Don’t give charities credit card information or other resources that can be re-billed.

  • Don’t set up charities with auto-draft privileges. These can lead to overdraft fees and other bank-account-draining activities.


1. Pick a charity that you think you would like to donate to (or one you have donated to in the past) and search for them on the GuideStar website. Have they registered with the IRS?

2. Then go to the BBB Wise Giving Alliance OR Charity Navigator website. What did you learn?

3. Look the charity up on the Charity Navigator site. How is their fund utilization?


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