6 Things to Think About When Choosing a Nonprofit to Support

A little research, a little soul searching, and a bit of due diligence can help you make sure your hard-earned dollars are making a difference.

Every year, thousands of nonprofits that support thousands of causes ask for for donations. But how can you choose which one to give to? A little research, a little soul searching, and a bit of due diligence can help you make sure your hard-earned dollars are making a difference.

Think about what you believe in

Think about the causes that matter the most to you. You don’t need to give to everyone who asks, so it’s useful to have a list of questions to ask yourself before giving. Is this cause important to you? Are you interested in environmental issues, animal welfare, rare diseases? Do you want to give locally, nationally, or internationally?

Check the mission

Nonprofits can support a cause in a variety of ways. For example, one pet charity may focus on finding homes for rescue dogs; another on training therapy dogs for the elderly; another on banning dog fighting. Find one whose mission aligns with your preferences. Some nonprofits focus only on raising awareness of issues; others aim for programmatic solutions. All nonprofits should have their mission statement on their website.

Where does the money go?

You work hard to earn your money; nonprofits should work effectively to spend theirs. Their programs, grants, research, etc., should be clearly defined on their website. A good nonprofit should have a positive rating on Charity Navigator, GuideStar, or give.org. Some smaller, local nonprofits may not be listed on either of those sites. In that case, their website should still have: audited financials, a listing of their board of directors, a donor privacy policy, as well as measurable goals and documented successes.

Assess their tactics

It’s worth paying attention to your interactions with a nonprofit to see what their priorities are. A reputable nonprofit will never pressure you to buy or use a particular product or service. A reputable nonprofit will be open about their finances and programs. Nonprofits should never request personal information from you such as bank statements, your annual salary, social security numbers, or other personal information when you are asked to donate to their organization.

The company they keep

Every nonprofit has to start somewhere, and an organization without partners or sponsors is not necessarily illegitimate. But unfortunately, it is possible to create a nonprofit designed to help its founders more than its purported designees. Who are the sponsors of the nonprofit? (Most nonprofits will list sponsors on their websites.) Are they companies or organizations you have heard of? Do sponsoring companies serve on the board of the nonprofit? Do they share the same or similar addresses? These could be indications that the organization is not what it seems to be.

Trust your instincts

If you have a bad feeling about the authenticity of a nonprofit, don’t give them money. Find another organization whose you’re confident will put your money to good use, and donate to them.