Andrew Hastings: Hi! I'm Andrew Hastings, Vice President of National Philanthropic Trust. I'm here to talk with you about how to choose the right charity for you.
How many charities do you think there are in this country? Thousands? Tens of thousands? It might surprise you to learn that there are more than 1.
4 Million nonprofit charitable organizations in the US. That's a lot of organizations that could benefit from your support.
Charitable giving has always been a core part of our nation's heritage. Here are three steps that can help you select the right charity for you.
First, Follow Your Passion. Individuals who most enjoy their philanthropy are those who give to organizations that share their personal interest and passions. Often the most satisfying cause is one that that's close to home, where you can directly engage in the organization's activities. Ask yourself these three questions. What charitable cause inspires me or moves me most? What core values would I like my giving to reflect? And what would I like to see happen as a result of my giving?
Second, Focus Your Giving. Consider these questions. What charitable fields, such as medicine, education, or the arts hold the most meaning for me? What will give me greater satisfaction? Making a few large gifts or smaller ones over time? Do I want to support and establish charity or a newer emerging one? And do I want to help meet needs at an individual level or at a policy and society level?
Third, Evaluate the Charities you're considering. Before you commit your dollars, commit some time to making sure those dollars will go to their best use. Start with the organization's own website and printed information. How does the organization describe itself and its programs? Does it provide clear financial and administrative information? Does it list background information on the staff and its board members? Does it post its annual report and audited financial statements online? And how does it measure its impact in the communities it serves?
Also, checkout websites that evaluate the effectiveness and legitimacy of charitable organizations. These include guidestar.
org and give.
org, which are run by the Better Business Bureau. If you're seriously considering an organization, why not go visit it personally? A site visit provides an opportunity to see what the organization does and how it does it. To tour their facilities and meet their staff, to talk with them about their mission and to listen to their stories, you might even consider volunteering to get to know them better.
Finally, keep this is mind, your philanthropy should benefit you as well as the organization. I'm not talking about tax benefits, although there are many; I'm talking about the emotional and psychic benefits you can get from giving to charity, from improving your community, from touching the lives of others and from making the world a better place. These are very important considerations in choosing where to direct your charitable dollars.