Is My Donation Used Well?
At this time of year you may be approached by charities to make an “end of year” contribution. Here’s what to look for to evaluate charities, along with a few creative ways to make your contribution go further:
Spend time on these websites: www.charitynavigator.org, www.bbb.org/charity, www.greatnonprofits.org. Search for a charity and look at complaints, reviews, and ratings (5-star, etc.).
- Check for IRS 501(c) 3 status, which makes your contribution tax deductible and holds the charity to a non-profit standard.
- Look at the overhead ratio (the percentage of expenses that goes to administrative and fundraising costs) to see if it raises any “red flags.” The majority of charities evaluated by Charity Navigator spend 10 percent or less on fundraising fees and 15 percent or less on administrative costs.
- Check the charity’s financial health by visiting its website and looking at its annual report. For the charity’s results, look for its Charting Impact report at www.chartingimpact.org. The report gives the charity’s answers to five basic questions, such as “What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?”
- Beware of charities that won’t share information. These might be scams (usually by phone or email).
Look for other ways to give. Ask your tax advisor for any financial implications but consider the following:
- Create a scholarship at your high school or college. They may require $100 to $1,000 a year or more, and larger institutions have higher minimums.
- Give a designated contribution to a hospital. Work with the hospital’s development office to donate money for new equipment or a specific project like breast cancer research.
- Give to your child’s school. Ask them to designate your donation for a specific department, such as the music program.