Within these last few days of the year, many people take this opportunity to squeeze in one more charitable donation as an extra write-off for their taxes. Your tax forms don’t care where that money goes, as long as it’s a charity, but you probably do. You’ll want to make sure that your money is going to a good organization.
But what does that mean? And how can you know?
Here are five tips that can help you decide which charity to send end-of-year donations to:
1. Research charities with good track records
Experience and innovation in the field you’re planning to give to are both important. Choose a charity that has a strong track record in both to help ensure that your donation will be used well. For example, if you want to give to clean water projects, look for an organization that has staff on the ground and demonstrates successful projects installing wells and pumps, as well as training locals to make repairs.
2. Look more closely than overhead
An organization’s overhead gives a snapshot of how much money an organization spends on administration versus sends to the field. Efficiency is important when choosing a charity, but efficiency alone is no guarantee that a charity is making a difference. Effectiveness is the key factor. Once you’ve identified fiscally responsible charities, look further: for one that shares regular updates, impact reports, photos and videos from the frontlines of their work.
3. Ask questions first
Since most charities expect to raise a high percentage of their annual donations within this last week of December, they will most likely be prepared to hear from you and answer your questions. Just because there’s a deadline for your tax year doesn’t mean you should send off a check before you know a little more. Visit the charity’s website, send them an email, or give them a call!
4. Pay attention to what other donors are saying
Who better to give you an insight into what it’s like to be a donor of a certain charity than other donors themselves? Today, social media is a fast and easy to find out what both critics and fans of a charity think. A charity’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, and blog are all places where people like you can leave comments and ask questions. So take a look! See how responsive a certain charity is to their donors, how they share information, and how they address concerns. Get a sense of how you might be treated as a donor yourself.
5. Watch out for scams
As the busiest time of year for charitable giving, there’s a chance you’ll run into scam artists trying to take advantage of your generosity. So be on guard! Don’t let these scammers get the better of you. Watch out for emails asking for a credit card number or other personal information. They might try by phone, too: if someone claims to be representing a charity you don’t know, visit their website or social media first before deciding to give.
Our most popular category for year-end giving is our Where Most Needed Fund: Consider making a donation today!