How do I research which charities to donate to?
Some solid online research can give you a base of information on which to plan your giving.
- To check an American organization, order a free copy of the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Guide. http://us.bbb.org
- Charity Navigator will tell you which American charities have run afoul of industry standards. http://www.charitynavigator.org
- For a more international view, the Council on Foundations and InterAction are good bets. http://www.cof.org and http://www.interaction.org
Think about how involved you want to be. How much research can you do: a few minutes, hours or days? Look at groups' annual reports and 990 tax forms, available from GuideStar (http://www.guidestar.org). Ask about anything that looks unreasonable. And ask for proof of the organizations' work, like stated goals and measured progress toward them. These will show you the charities' priorities, so you can decide whether you agree with them and see precisely what your dollars are supposed to achive. Also, make sure that you concur with how they measure success. At Heifer International (http://www.heifer.org), the group known for donating livestock to indigent communities, success is measured by whether recipients' incomes increase, not just whether they got the livestock. And at Rotary International (http://www.rotary.org), which oversees $100 million a year in grants abroad, staffers dispatch auditors to gauge the efficacy of their member-run projects. If they find that a project is failing - or, worse, cheating - they'll suspend funding until the problems are fixed or cancel support entirely.
Information take from "Checking Out Charities" Town and Country, June 2008: 179.