Charitable Donation Advice
Charitable Donation Advice is recurring column here at Change Gangs: Virtual Giving Circles because we think our hard earned money deserves to make an impact on the world. Not all charities are created equal, so here’s a little advice on discovering more about a charity before you donate.
Researching Their Reputation
Charities are no different than any other organization. While most charities are well run by people with good intentions, some, unfortunately, are not. Some charities have embezzled or wasted the money entrusted to them by generous people like us.
Some charities have the best of intentions but have been working on programs that don’t work, have unintended consequences, or even hurt the very people they want to help.
An extreme example of charity fraud happened recently when 60 minutes and John Krakauer accused Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and founder of the Central Asia Institute, of misusing millions of dollars donated to help build schools in developing countries.
Most cases don’t end up on 60 minutes. So if you want to know the reputation of a charity, what can you do?
Fraud represents only one piece of an charity’s reputation. Additionally, there can be problems with the work that they are doing and the programs they are implementing. For example, in one of our giving circles we were contemplating making a donation to an organization that published on the internet the names of people accused of animal abuse crimes. After some reputation research, we discovered concerns about whether or not this was a violation of a person’s privacy. While this concern didn’t automatically disqualify the group for a donation, it did mean we wanted to have a conversation about it. Did we think it was a violation and were we ok with that?
How can you find out about the implications and consequences of a charity’s programs?
I recommend a simple two step process that can reveal some potential red flags.
- What information do on-line sources such as Give Well, Charity Navigator, the local Better Business Bureau, or the National Better Business Bureau/) provide about the charity?
- Google the charity’s name followed by the word “criticism”, “problem”, “controversy”, and/or “complaint”. If the charity does a particular type of work (for example, microfinance, orphanage, no kill animal shelter), Google it followed by the word “criticism”, “problem”, “controversy”, and/or “complaint”. What do you find?
Do these questions raise any problems you need to consider? Does it change what you think and feel about them and their work? If not, go ahead and make that donation with confidence!
Of course, you don’t have to rely on just yourself for all the work of discovering out which organizations are the best. You can share that work with your giving circle members and make informed donations that make an impact on the problem in a fraction of the time.