Deciding Who is on Your List of Favorite Charities

Like most people, I have a couple of favorite charities that can count on my donation each year.  I also have my “walk-ins.”  These are charities that unexpectedly catch my attention.  Their stories are compelling and their needs are often urgent.  The least I can do is to take a second look, right?  This is where the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for Nonprofit Sector® is very helpful.

The Standards for Excellence® code is one of many tools I use to distinguish the good nonprofits from the great ones.  If a particular nonprofit has earned the Seal of Excellence, deciding to give to that organization becomes much easier.  At a minimum, however, I examine the charity’s website to find current information about their mission, programs, and the impact they are having in the community. I take note of special awards, accreditations, and partnerships.  I find out who their board members are.  I assess their financial health by looking at their financial statements and Form 990s over several years. 

However, even if this all checks out, there is one deal-breaker. If I receive a solicitation that does not identify the organization, state the intended use of my donation, or that fails to state that my contribution is tax-deductible, it causes me to question.  If this organization’s solicitations are unlawful or secretive, are they being secretive or unlawful in other ways? The Standards for Excellence® code highlights 55 indicators of well-managed responsibly-governed organizations.  I encourage you to use the code to tease out the indicators you value the most and to evaluate how your “walk-ins” stack up.  Who knows?  They just might make it onto your list of favorites. 

The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector® can be downloaded or copies can be ordered online>>

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