On my Facebook page, I asked, “What is the biggest concern you have about donating money?” The replies I received went something like this:
- How much of my donation goes to those in need?
- How effectively are they using my donation?
- I don’t like losing control over the money we donate.
These are variations of the question, “What happens with my donation?” Does it help people? Is it used effectively? Efficiently?
For a long time, I didn’t feel comfortable answering these questions. For one, I usually donate small amounts of money, and it just felt like too much work to research these questions for $25, $50, or a $100. Secondly, I just didn’t really know where to look or what to ask.
So, I started doing extensive research, so that I could donate confidently. I wanted a system that was easy, accessible, yet thorough. I’m going to share with you how I answer this question, now.
These are the basic questions that I now answer before I make any donation. I got most of these from Lucy Bernholz, and my favorite part about it is that she designed them for kids. I’m pretty sure that if a fifth grader can answer these questions, then I can, too.
- What does the organization do?
- How do they do it?
- Is it congruent with what I want to support? Why?
- How do they know they are making a difference?
If I have more time and I want to be more thorough then I’ll answer these questions suggested by Stannard Stockon.
Most non-profits should be trying to put themselves out of business. They should solve the problem they were created to fix, and then happily cease to exist. Our donation should have an impact on the problem, and these questions will help you figure that out.
- On what research or evidence did the organization design its programs?
- What information does the nonprofit collect about the results of its programs?
- How does the organization systematically analyze the information it collects?
- How has the nonprofit adjusted its activities in response to new information?
- Does the organization have an absolute focus on producing results?
Even More Complete
I like to conduct a little reputation research before making a donation. There are many online charity evaluation companies. Each one has strengths and weaknesses, so I don’t depend on any one company. I may not find any information on the organization I’m considering, I may not discover critical information that will come to light later, and I may choose to donate even if I find concerns. But at least I’m making an informed choice.
- What information do on-line sources such as Give Well or Charity Navigator, the National Better Business Bureau or my local BBB provide?
- Google the organizations name with the word “problem”, “concern”, and/or “criticism”. What do you find?
Get Help From Others
I’ve discovered that answering these questions is easier and more effective when I’m sharing the work with the members of my virtual giving circles. So, I encourage you to find others who are also interested in giving to this particular organization or just interested in giving at all and team up. You don’t have to do it all alone.
Contact Me, to see if I can put you in touch with other people who care about the same cause.