Tags: charity | guidestar | philanthropy | advancement officer | the right ask

Tips to Ensure Your Charitable Giving Goes to Effective Organizations

Tips to Ensure Your Charitable Giving Goes to Effective Organizations

By Friday, 07 July 2017 03:11 PM Current | Bio | Archive

We are approaching the time of year when our mail boxes, whether traditional or digital, begin to fill with requests for donations. Then there are the soulful and often heart wrenching requests on television or radio. Should we write that check or make that click? No matter how generous a person may be, the requests for support could deplete even the wealthiest person’s nest egg.

Here are some tips that might help a person sort through even the most dramatic requests. These are born from more than four decades in the career of asking people to give to a variety of different worthwhile causes. I have often found that people who devote a tremendous amount of effort in saving and investing money spend little time in deciding where to give. They should.

First, does the mission of the organization speak to your most deeply held principles and beliefs? Has the organization touched you, or a loved one, in some personal way?

Second, have you satisfied yourself that the organization is led by a trustworthy and competent person? Who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)? What do you know of them beyond the public relations materials sent you? Have you looked them up on the internet? How long have they been leading the organization? Do they enjoy a solid public reputation?

Third, do you know or recognize any of the board members? Does the board membership reflect a diversity of occupations? What organizations or corporations do they lead? This board has the power to hire or fire the CEO and to approve or disapprove the budget each year. It should not be a social club.

Fourth, if you are making a substantial gift, have you taken the time to look them up on any of the publicly available websites to examine the federal 990 Form? Guidestar is one such website.

The 990 Form, filed with the federal government by all valid charities (except for religious organizations, which are exempt by the First Amendment) each year, provides a wealth of information. Most important, it will show the ratio of program expenditures in relation to administrative and fundraising expenses. If a charity is spending most of their money on fundraising and administrative costs, it raises the question of how efficient and effective they are with using donations. Usually, an organization should be spending at least 80 percent of their donations on the program. There are exceptions, but it is a good rule of thumb. Who signed the form? Was it a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)? Do any board members receive a salary? Sometimes the CEO will be a board member, but best practices call for the CEO and his family members not to be a member of the board to eliminate the temptation of self-dealing.

Fifth, if you plan on making a large gift, will the organization offer you a signed agreement as to the specific purpose and uses of your gift?

There are other matters to consider, but this is a rough road map to ensure the gift brings enduring satisfaction to the donor and to the cause they seek to support.

Michael Y. Warder Sr. is the author of "The Right Ask: What Every Advancement Officer Should Know," available on September 26, 2017. Warder has held a variety of leadership positions in a broad array of public policy think tanks and non-profits before establishing The Warder Consultancy in 2014. He was for more than nine years Vice Chancellor of Pepperdine University. Prior to that he was Executive Director of the West Coast for the Children's Scholarship Fund, VP for Development of The Claremont Institute, and EVP of The Rockford Institute in Illinois. In Washington, D.C., he was EVP of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Director of Administration of The Heritage Foundation. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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We are approaching the time of year when our mail boxes, whether traditional or digital, begin to fill with requests for donations.
charity, guidestar, philanthropy, advancement officer, the right ask
Friday, 07 July 2017 03:11 PM
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