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.