Here are GuideStar's tips
for donors who want to give with their heads as well as
Do this before you open your checkbook, volunteer
your time, or look at that letter from a charity.
Identify your preferences.
Ask yourself: "What
is important to me?" The environment? Education?
Hunger? Animal welfare? Helping sick children?
Where should the
charity do its work—in your neighborhood, region,
the nation, or internationally?
Ask yourself if you
want to support a large or small charity, a new or
an old one.
Search the GuideStar database to find charities that meet your
Focus on the mission.
Look at each
charity's description in the GuideStar search
results, on its Web site, or in its literature.
Find the nonprofits
that fit best with your values.
Eliminate organizations that don't meet your criteria.
Now you're ready to look more closely at these
Verify a charity's legitimacy.
If you find a
charity on GuideStar (www.guidestar.org), you know
it's legitimate—all nonprofits listed on GuideStar
are either registered with the IRS or have given us
proof of their status as legitimate nonprofits that
meet the IRS criteria for tax-exempt organizations.
You can see at a glance if your contribution will be
If the charity is
not on GuideStar, ask to see its letter of
If the organization
is faith based, ask to see its official listing in a
directory for its denomination.
Get the cold, hard facts. A reputable organization will:
Define its mission
and programs clearly.
criteria to describe its achievements.
Compare apples to apples.
Be sure to compare charities that do the same kind of
work, especially if you're looking at their finances.
The type of work a charity does can affect its operating
Avoid charities that won't share information or pressure you.
Will discuss their
programs and finances.
Don't use pressure
Are willing to send
you literature about their work or direct you to a
Will take "no" for
Trust your instincts.
If you still have doubts about a charity, don't
contribute to it. Instead, find another nonprofit that
does the same kind of work and with which you feel
comfortable, then make your donation.
About The Author:
E. Coffman, December 2005
© 2005, Philanthropic Research, Inc.
Coffman is GuideStar's director of
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