Intentional Giving

Although donations are on the rise, charitable giving is still 5 percent below pre-recession figures.  With ongoing concern about a slow economic recovery and extreme market turbulence, donors (and potential donors) are justifiably concerned that their charitable contributions be used effectively and efficiently.

Fortunately, in this age of information technology, many good resources are available to guide your client’s giving in ways that make wise use of their financial resources.  For example, Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping donors make intelligent giving decisions by evaluating the financial health of 5,000 of the best known charities.  Their goal is to “advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace, in which givers and the charities they support work in tandem to overcome our nation’s most persistent challenges.”

A visit to the Charity Navigator website, www.charitynavigator.org, allows individuals to research charities by cause, category, state, or region.  In addition, this site offers a “Hot Topic” section that reports on current events.  When natural disasters strike and new societal concerns emerge, Charity Navigator uses this portion of their site to spotlight charities effectively dealing with these issues so that your clients can give with confidence.  For example, one category currently features organizations helping families severely impacted by the economy and finding it difficult or impossible to pay their bills and buy groceries.

Good Intentions Are Not Enough is another website, www.goodintents.org, that provides guidelines for donors.  The founder, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, shares what she has learned by experience:  “If assistance is done poorly, it can hurt the very people it is supposed to help.”

One tool available via the Good Intentions homepage is the “Charity Rater” online survey.  Answers to each question are based on the information found – or not found – on the charity’s website or in its annual report.  The process takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete, but your investment of time will help you become a better, more empowered donor.

In some cases, you may find that the organization you are trying to rate does not share enough meaningful information.  That is because, as Schimmelpfennig reports, transparency is a serious problem in the aid world. “This makes it impossible for donors, charity watchdogs, or the larger aid world to hold organizations accountable for providing quality, appropriate assistance.”

She goes on to state, “Nonprofits will only become more transparent when individual donors, like you, require and reward it.”

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