Thursday, 18 December 2014 21:22

Tips for Finding and Evaluating Charities

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Dr. Michael Omidi discusses how to choose the right charities to support.

Just making the decision to give money to an organization is an important and, for some people, difficult step. Another difficult part of the process is evaluating charities that appear to fit your criteria. Perhaps your cause is animal welfare or the prevention of heart disease. Where do you begin? There are literally thousands of legitimate charitable groups in the U.S., as well as a few that are not so legitimate. Separating the good from the bad can be quite a chore, so make sure you do your homework. The following list might help. These guidelines are not carved in stone, but are a good jumping-off point for your quest to identify worthy causes.

1. Don’t judge the organization by its name

This is just a basic precaution, since groups like The ABCXYZ Charitable Trust, as a hypothetical example, might not even be a trust. Check out your favorite charities on the Internet and make sure they do what they purport to do.

2. Donate time and money to organizations that you already know

Charity experts have always advised this route. If you have some connection to a local or national charity, then you are already an “insider” and understand how they spend their money and their cause. Here are a few other common sense ideas for locating a worthy organization:

3. Verify the group’s legal status

You should use a state database that lists all registered charities. This way, you can usually also find out how much money the group raises each year and what they do with it.

4. Understand the group’s mission

Don’t judge a book by its cover, and never judge a charity by its name (see tip #1) or what you have heard about it. Do some research and find out their mission. Maybe it is something that conflicts with your beliefs or is not in line with the way you want to donate. It’s your money! Get the facts before handing it over to any organization or individual.

Getting involved with the charity of your choice

If you want a starting point for your search, feel free to visit the main list of charities we support by clicking here. You’ll find more than 31 organizations that could use your time or donations all year round. Our listing comprises organizations old and new, small and large. Their goals are as diverse as can be, so you will likely find a charitable organization that suits your personal aims.

5. Volunteer your time to a charity you believe in

Perhaps the best way to learn about an organization’s goals and methods is to volunteer your time. Sign up for their weekend fundraiser or ask how you can help with a food drive. Whatever the event, your time is helpful to them and it will let you know how they operate.

6. Ask lots of questions

Never be afraid to ask an organization’s representatives for details. Before you give, ask about the group’s expenses and how much they raise in an average year. Do they employ a large staff? How long have they been in existence? All are good questions along with any others that help you learn about the charity’s structure and history. Taxes and privacy are important, too How charities handle your money and personal data are important points to consider. Especially if you are planning to donate a significant sum, be absolutely sure whether the gift is deductible.

7. Ask whether your gift is tax deductible

It is always a good idea to ask about tax deductible gifts before giving. Just because they use the word “charity” in their name is no guarantee that your donation will be tax deductible. It’s as simple as asking and then verifying the group’s legal status.

8. Never give out personal or financial data in response to appeals, especially phone solicitations

This is just common sense and applies to all phone solicitations and appeals for money. If a charity is legitimate, they will be happy to direct you to their website and provide a mailing address for donations. Beware of “credit card only” fundraisers. Be sure to use all the resources at your disposal this year to find a charity that matches your own goals and uses its money wisely. Good luck! (No More Poverty was founded by Julian Omidi and Dr. Michael Omidi. The Omidi brothers’ goal is to end poverty at home and abroad by supporting the efforts of like-minded charities and agencies.)
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