What to Look for in a Charity
There is a plethora of charities to choose from. So many exist that it can be very hard to pick the perfect one to donate your money to or volunteer for. How in the world do you find the right one? Well, I’m going to go over some tips to help with that.
Before you even consider looking for charities, you first need to find out why it is that you want to be philanthropic. Are you giving from the heart, or, in other words, giving because you want to make yourself happy? Or are you giving from the head, or, in other words, giving to benefit yourself or society the most? I recommend you try to find a happy medium between the two extremes. If you just donate to causes that make you happy without thinking with your head, you may very well end up giving to an inefficient organization that is wasting your money. However, if you just donate from the head, you will find no pleasure in giving away your hard earned money. You need to find a way to enjoy giving while also making the donation beneficial to you and/or to society. Leaning towards one side or the other is okay, but try to satisfy both sides to make the most of your donation and time.
Once you have the heart vs. head issue figured out, it is time to find a mission statement to fit your passion. To whom would you like to donate to? What do you want to see fixed? Are you passionate about ending poverty, or oriented more towards helping people with health issues? There is a huge variety of charity categories. Here are just a few: animal rights; arts, culture, and humanities; community development; education; environment; health; human and civil rights; human services; international services; research and public policy; and religious organizations.
When you have your passion figured out, you are ready to start figuring out the type of solution you want to support. There are two types of solutions: those that treat the effects of the problem and those that treat the causes of the problem. For example, you could choose to fund care centers for Alzheimer’s patients, or you can choose to fund research towards finding a cure. Both are important, but it is your job as a donor to pick the one that interests you most if you can’t pick both.
Next up is size. How big of an organization do you want to donate to? Are you wanting to donate to newer or smaller charities that need the money more to get their objectives done? Or do you feel more secure if your money went to big organizations that are stable and have proven success?
Financials are also an extremely important factor in deciding who to donate to. Overhead costs, or the percentage of each dollar donated that go towards fundraising and administrative expenses instead of program expenses, need to be considered. Are you okay with having an organization sacrifice more overhead expense for running itself (this is more common in smaller charities)? Do you want your organization to spend less than 20% of its profits on overhead costs? Keep in mind that just because a charity has high overhead costs does not mean it is ineffective; it may be more expensive to carry out certain goals than others. For example, it is more expensive to run a cancer research nonprofit than it is to run a food bank led by volunteers. Aim for a healthy balance between goal difficulty and reasonable overhead costs. A good resource for finding overhead costs is charitynavigator.org, which is a nonprofit charity evaluator.
Lastly, you need to consider the scope of impact your donation is making. You may prefer to help a few people a lot, or help a lot of people a little. What location do you want to affect? Are you looking for charities that help the local community, or those that work on an international scale? Some people like to give to charities that can help their own people locally. Others feel like international relief efforts need their help more. It’s all up to you!
These methods of narrowing down your options for charities are just the beginning. There are many other ways to narrow down the wide variety of charities that exist in the world. You just need to find the rubric that works best for you to help you find the perfect charity to donate to. Happy searching!