After being given the task to “create, plan, and execute a fund raising project for a designated charity,” one of the first questions our group asked each other was what charity does our team want to support? In the course of everyday life, this question remains relevant. When a disaster occurs, numerous charities ask for donations to help rebuild a community, friends and family participate in walks or runs in order to raise money for a cause, and solicitations from third parties are abundant. Asking yourself a few simple questions and giving donation parameters can help determine whether the cause or special project is the right place to donate funds. An interesting article in the Washingtonian helped clarify some questions that I have had in the past while donating to a specific cause or charity.
1. Pick a problem you care about- “Whether seasoned or first-time givers, people become consistent donors and take more pride in their gifts when they contribute to an initiative they find important” <http://www.washingtonian.com/>. Small donations pop up throughout the year, but when it comes to a major or annual gift it is important to feel strongly about the cause you are donating to.
2. Decide whether you’d rather invest locally or globally- Multinational charities help those in need all around the world, but the downside is that the results aren’t evident in one’s local community. Both arenas are worthwhile, so the answer to this question depends on the individual donating.
3. Research online- Once you have selected an organization, there are many helpful websites that can provide valuable information and help dig deeper to make sure your funds are being put to use in the most effective way. <http://www.charitynavigator.org/> and <http://www.charitywatch.org/> are good places to start.
4. Look for red flags- A few examples are excessive salaries, revenue or expense projections that greatly deviate from a prior year’s budget, non-diverse revenue sources, and board members who don’t participate by donating to their organization. Non-profits should hold to the same standards as a for-profit organization. If the charity doesn’t seem to track figures or illustrate a level of transparency about funding, it may not be the right direction to take.
5. Call or visit your finalists- Every organization has volunteers that should be able to talk to you about the work the charity does and how it impacts those in need. Smaller organizations may take more time responding to each request, but it is important to know what the goals are of the charity and to see whether they align with the guidelines you feel are important.
6. Get started early- As the year winds down, many people want to donate funds for tax purposes. Make sure to give yourself and the charity enough time to answer your questions without end-of-year pressures.
So far, our group has had an extremely difficult time actually connecting with a representative from our charity. I am the “central region charitable contributions lead” for my corporation, and these communication issues seem to be similar for many charities that my corporation supports. Have you encountered communication barriers while working on this group project? Have you donated to a charity in the past and then found out that they were fraudulent? What other items do you consider while donating funds?