4 Things to Know About a Charity – Before Writing a Check

We all intuitively know that some nonprofits are better than others. By better, that means they are able to create a bigger impact per dollar spent.

The elephant in the room is that some people make better donors than others. They, too, are able to create a bigger impact per dollar spent.

This holiday season, Americans will spend four hours researching their television purchases and eight hours researching computer purchases. How much time are you dedicating to researching the charities you support?

If it’s a smaller number than you’d like to admit, you are not alone. The vast majority of donors report doing no research at all when it comes to their charitable contributions.

Below are the top four things you should know about a charity before writing that check:

1. What is the experience and commitment level of the organization’s leadership, Board and staff, and are they qualified – with the expertise necessary to do the work?

2. What is the nonprofit’s financial picture? The public should be provided easy access – ideally on the nonprofit’s website – to its IRS filings, financial statements, and audited reports.

3. Is the organization’s 501(c)3 status current?

4. What is its impact, direct and indirect? Too many nonprofits tout their activities (providing X number of hours of after school tutoring) when they should be reporting their outcomes (increased comprehension, better grades and fewer students dropping out).

Strategic philanthropy: It’s not about how much you give. It’s about how you give.

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