With the holidays quickly approaching, now’s a great time to talk about how to evaluate charities before you make a final decision on which organizations will receive your donations.
It’s the season of giving after all, and when the Lord has placed it on your heart to give to those less fortunate than you, you can trust that the right opportunities will be opened up to you.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)
That said, it’s a good idea to consider the history of the organization(s) you’ll be giving to, as well as how they’ll use the funds.
So let’s take a look together at some reliable ways to go about doing that.
How to Evaluate Charities
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.1 John 3:17-18 (NIV)
Whether you want to give to your own community or to those in a faraway land, the easiest and fastest way to do so is to donate money to a charity organization that can take care of the logistics for you.
Unfortunately, not all of these organizations are created equal. Most charities actually keep a portion of your donation so that they can cover their overhead to stay in business themselves.
While this is a standard and necessary practice, some charities will take more than others.
So how can you know that your money will be going the farthest it possibly can? And what are some good ways to evaluate charities so that you can give of your resources wisely and effectively?
1. Look at the Charity’s Mission Statement
One of the first things you can do is to head over to the charity’s website that you wish to give to, and take a look at their mission statement. This will give you a better idea of their values and goals.
2. Look at How They Distribute Funds
Next, do your research on how the charity distributes the funds it receives. What percentage of your donation will they take? How exactly will they be using the rest of the money?
To see the exact numbers, look up their most recent 990 tax form; the IRS requires nonprofits to make this form public.
3. Ask Around About Their Work
Consider others who support the charity. Do you have family or friends or have given to them before? How long did they support them and what do they have to say about the experience?
4. Research Their Reputation Online
Research the charity’s reputation. How long have they been operating? What do the online reviews say? Even if you’re really keen to give to a particular charity, it’s important to consider both the positive and negative reviews to that you can get the bigger picture.
Be sure to take advantage of the great resource that is Charity Watch. They are a nonprofit charity evaluation network that has been around for over 25 years. On their website you can enter the name of the charity you are thinking about contributing to, and they will provide you with a free evaluation report to help you better determine how your donations will be allocated.
5. Contact the Charity Directly
Give them a phone call or send an email asking for more information. A reputable charity that truly cares for its donors and recipients will be more than happy to answer any questions you have in a timely manner.
Evaluate Your Own Heart
They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything- all she had to live on.Mark 12:44 (NIV)
Sometimes, the amount of income we are blessed with does not quite match the amount we wish we could give to those who are less fortunate than us.
Other times, we’d simply like to donate tangible items rather than money.
In any case, no matter how much you can give or what type of gift you have, you may never know the great ways God can use your donation to bless others! It’s simply your job to give.
If you don’t have much to give financially, or if you are looking for some more hands-on ways to give, here are some non-monetary ideas.
Non-Monetary Charitable Donation Ideas
- Do you have a knack for sewing or knitting? Consider creating blankets, teddy bears, dolls or pillows, and donating them to your local hospital. Children’s hospitals are especially grateful for these kinds of donations, especially around the holidays. Many NICUs will also take handmade “lovies,” preemie diaper donations, and new or gently used baby clothes.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in your neighborhood. Put Ephesians 6:7 into action, allowing the love of Christ to manifest through you.
- Can you sing or play an instrument? Then consider “donating” your God-given gift at a nursing home or hospice. Especially during Christmastime, residents love to hear hymns or classic Christmas songs sung or played (or both).
- Donate to your local food pantry. If you have a few extra cans of veggies or fruit rolling around in the back of your pantry, give them to a family who could really use them! Besides canned foods, other items you can donate include rice, pasta, cooking oils, herbs and spices (dried), peanut butter, powdered milk, and healthy cereals.
- Drop off your old clothes at a local donation box. This is so easy to do! Simply bag up any clothes or shoes that you don’t wear anymore (but that someone else could use), and drop them in a local donation bin.
- Make some care kits to hand out to the homeless in your area. These are ziploc bags filled with a few prepackaged snacks, a water bottle, and necessities like bandages, socks, and mittens. Carry one or two in your car to give to those who ask with cardboard signs as you stop at an intersection. Learn more about making these here.
Thank you for reading! Hopefully now you know how to evaluate charities and feel better equipped to give wisely, effectively, and generously.
If you have any comments for us, insight on a particular charity, or any more donation ideas, please feel free to share them below.