They’re everywhere: among your email and text messages, in your web and social media streams, in your mailbox and on your evening news. Everyone seems to need our help with donations to meet the most fundamental of goals. The sad Sarah McLachlan dogs with the ASPCA? The local family’s crisis after a fire has wiped out everything? Or watching the humanitarian crisis now facing the people of Ukraine? We all want to help, but all of the “asks” can be overwhelming.
Cause IQ says there are almost 2 million nonprofits (organizations that receive tax-deductible donations) currently operating in the US, with churches, schools and foundations making up 40 percent of the total. Beyond that, nonprofits include civil, social and business organizations, human services providers, cultural and humanities champions, and others from environmental, animal-focused and public safety groups as well as think tanks and civil rights organizations.
“People are very generous, especially older adults,” explained Dick Eppstein, president of the Better Business Bureau. “But it’s important to do your homework” before giving to nonprofits, he warns.
Make a plan for giving
Your personal passions should be a guiding factor in determining the organizations you support. Time Magazine suggests that you develop a personal philanthropic autobiography for giving based on your values, passions and interests. What causes do you favor? What nonprofit organizations have been important to you? What activities are important to you? This listing can provide the foundation for your annual contributions.
Making selections? Consider the interests that guide your life:
- Locally – Your church, medical facility, library, college or other schools, parks or community organizations are good candidates.
- National or International Good – Organizations around the world that support veterans, hunger, climate or other international efforts, or nonprofits involved with topics you’re passionate about.
- Create a Legacy – Look for a nonprofit that will honor a loved one, support a cause or establish a giving platform for you.
Do your homework before you give
If you find a nonprofit that interests you, Eppstein advises that you be sure it’s well organized and operated and worth your support. The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance uses its 20 Standards for Charity Accountability to accredit organizations based on a broad range of topics. (give.give.orgorg) Enter the name of the organization you’re interested in and it will provide a report and assign an accreditation ranking.
Several organizations provide similar vetting of nonprofit organizations: GuideStar, Charity Navigator and CharityWatch among them. Sign-in is required for most organizations, and some will provide additional information for paid members.
If you are not comfortable using web searches to learn more about a nonprofit you’re interested in, Eppstein recommends that you can call the local BBB directly. There is no charge for this research, but paid members also receive a monthly list of local nonprofit ratings. Call 419.531.3116 to learn about the organizations that interest you.
Supporting an organization is a noble action that almost always has a positive impact. If approached with care, your support will also have its intended objective: to help make a difference. As you’re making your plan:
- Determine your annual personal budget for donations and stick to it.
- Make sure at least 65 percent, or much more, of a nonprofit’s budget is dedicated to program services.
- If you’re interested in a crowdfunded program, you should have personal knowledge of the people involved (or know someone who does).
- Don’t click an unsolicited link or respond to phone or email solicitations. If you’re interested in a nonprofit, research it independently.
- Do the most good – give money. And give meaningful gifts, considering the long-term impact of your donation vs. a short-term fix.Consider volunteering or doing pro bono work (volunteermatch or catchafire, or directly through local organizations).
A randomly selected group from the list of local charities and nonprofits that have received “Meets all standards” qualification from the local Better Business Bureau. The listing is from the April 2022 newsletter, distributed to BBB members. All the organizations listed below dedicate at least 80 percent of their budgets to programs.
Arts Commission of Greater Toledo
Beach House, Inc., Toledo
Findlay Hope House for the Homeless
Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County and Monroe County, Michigan
Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Toledo
MLK Kitchen for the Poor, Toledo
Open Door Ministry, Toledo
St. Paul’s Community Center, Toledo
Toledo Gospel Rescue Mission
Van Wert Council on Aging