How to Give Back Effectively

The desire to help your fellow man in times of need is intrinsic to our human nature. We see others struggling and we reach out to give them a hand. There is a multitude of ways in which to give back to your community and the world at large, but the current climate has rendered many of these opportunities, such as close contact volunteering, unfeasible. Financial contributions stand as the most viable avenue of philanthropy available at this time. But with at least 1.5 million registered nonprofits currently in operation, finding the right charity to support can be a daunting task. Following this guide and using the resources provided can help you narrow down your list of candidates and find the best, most effective recipient of your donations. 

Finding Charities

The first step in navigating the world of philanthropic organizations is doing basic web research. A generic search engine will provide you with wide-ranging results, but is not capable of weeding out less reputable nonprofits. Thankfully, there are a number of sites and organizations that are dedicated to helping you find charities that meet your criteria and share your priorities. 

Charity Navigator, for instance, assigns star ratings to charities based on financial health, accountability, and transparency, and has an in-depth search feature that makes it easy to find specific charities based on their philanthropic domain (including coronavirus-specific organizations). The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance also rates charities based on its own set of 20 benchmarks, and GreatNonprofits assembles ratings using Yelp-style reviews from volunteers, donors, and people served by nonprofits. If you’d like to see charities’ finances for yourself, GuideStar provides free access to basic financial data and offers in-depth reports for a small fee. 

Measuring Good for Good Measure

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of charities, there are a number of approaches you can use to determine which organization is the best choice for your donations. The organizations in the previous section calculate a variety of metrics to determine their ratings and recommendations, but we recommend doing the due diligence yourself for peace of mind. It’s important to note, however, that charities in different sectors differ greatly from one another and should be measured against charities in their respective sectors.

If you want to make sure your money goes directly to where it is advertised, compare how much each charity receives in donations to how much they spend on executive salaries, overhead expenses, and fundraising. Some charities spend too much on salaries at the expense of the needy, while others spend too little on personnel and suffer from a lack of expertise. 

Another factor to consider is the transparency of the charities in question. Check to see if the charities offer easy access to their audited financial records and what their policies are for retaining records, conflicts of interest, and dealing with whistleblowers. Make sure they have rigid privacy policies that prevent the sharing of donor information with third parties. See if they’re upfront about how much their CEO is paid and how that compensation is calculated. These policies should give you a clearer idea of how transparent each charity is and how accountable they are to their constituents.  

Suggested Donations

If sifting through databases of charities and reams of financial statements doesn’t appeal to you, there are a variety of established, well-respected charitable organizations working to give back to those who need it most. For example, Save the Children is providing food, books, and other supplies to children affected by our current adversity, and 87% of your donations will go directly to providing these children aid. The International Rescue Committee has launched coronavirus response programs to help vulnerable populations in over 40 countries, and the CDC Foundation has programs that reach people all across the globe. If you’d like to help hospitals and healthcare workers, charities like Project C.U.R.E. and Good360 collect and donate medical supplies and other goods to the people who are most at risk. You can find lists of the most successful charities online, or you can look into some lesser-known organizations that would be incredibly grateful for your donations. 

Thanks for Giving

The current climate has elevated the need for philanthropy across the globe. Your contributions can help people from every nation and walk of life survive adversity. Set aside some time, find some charities that you connect with most, and look into their policies and financial statements to determine which ones will utilize your donations most effectively and ethically. Dedicating an hour or two of research can make all the difference in the world for those who are most in need.

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