Guide to Giving

The December 2012 issue of Real Simple magazine includes a helpful guide with 5 tips on charitable giving.  It recommends doing some research on the charity of your choice before making a donation. Familiarize yourself with the organization:

  1. Understand the mission: should be clearly stated on the charity’s website with specifics.
  2. Verify the group’s non-profit status: its 501(c)(3) IRS status can be checked out at Guidestar.org. Without the designation, your contribution may not be tax-deductible.
  3. Know the charity’s spending ratio (the percentage of the budget that is spent on programs and services): go to CharityNavigator.org to view a financial analysis including spending ratios. A ballpark figure of 75% or higher is desired.
  4. Accountability and transparency practices: the governing board should include at least 5 members independent of the charity.  Go to the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance at give.org to find out.
  5. Ask about results: most mid to large charities conduct self or third-party assessments and should be forthcoming in sharing the findings.

Outside of the websites listed above, you may want to ask a representative from the charity the same types of questions and for a copy of the annual report.

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