(credit: Sam Forencich/Getty Images)

(credit: Sam Forencich/Getty Images)

There are just under 1.5 million non-profit, charitable organizations operating in the U.S. today. Some have grass roots budgets and a community-focused, boots-on-the-ground mentality. Others operate world-wide, wielding the power of millions of dollars and an army of supporters. No matter what their budget or mission, all legally-run non-profits operate in the public trust and under the auspices of state law. Except for some faith-based organizations, they also require IRS approval if they are to pursue their stated goals.
The world of non-profit organizations offers up an unending array of worthwhile causes and meaningful pursuits, all of which require funding. Supporting a charity can take a variety of forms, from making a donation to volunteering. Whether you’re writing a check or rolling up your sleeves, choosing where to spend your resources is an important decision, not to be made lightly. Your charitable support is a powerful tool that represents your voice, passion for change and hope for the future. In order to ensure your gift has maximum impact, make sure the charity of your choice meets these criteria.


What Would The World Be Like Without This Charity?
Causes abound, from animal rights to cancer research. When deciding where to donate, the first question you ask should be about the organization’s ability to have an impact. Take a look not only at their mission statement but also at their quantifiable results. You will often find many charities with similar missions, so before you donate, determine whether or not the non-profit of your choice is doing powerful work and forging ahead to accomplish their goals.
What Would Your World Be Like Without This Charity?
Non-profits can channel global impact on a cause like water purification or eradicating AIDS in developing nations. They can also mirror your personal efforts to refurbish a local place of worship, restock the town library or establish a soccer league for special needs kids. Charitable giving is highly personal, and choosing a charity whose mission resonates with your own is vitally important.
Where Does the Money Go?
Glitz and glamour do not an impactful charity make. Many non-profits rely on extravagant galas to gain exposure and raise funds. That’s fine, as long as the amount of money being spent on fund raising totals no more than 25 percent of their entire, annual operating budget. In order for charities to be effective, they need to allocate at least 60 percent of the monies they raise towards programming, and the rest on fund raising efforts and general operating expenses, such as employee salaries and rent. Non-profits are not required to publish an annual report, but most do. The reports include verifiable information about financial spending and allocation of fund raising dollars towards programming and goal-based initiatives. If the charity you are interested in supporting does not have a published record of spending, make a point of contacting either their President, Executive Director or Board Chair and ask them to outline, in writing, where they will be spending your contribution. Both seasoned organizations and brand new start-ups should be able to quantify their financial profile if asked.
The world requires non-profits to make it a better place. Whether you’re donating canned goods to the needy, writing a $5 check on your child’s behalf for homeless kittens or requesting that your workplace match a gift of $5,000 to end autism, your giving is vitally needed. Where you give is up to you, but giving always matters. Giving wisely feels good, and whether large or small, helps to change the world.


Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.


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