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Sarasota Charities

Choose Your Charities Wisely

| Sande Caplin |

Part Two In A Series of Articles on a Timely and Pertinent Subject:   The Hard-earned Money You Donate to Charities- How Much Really Goes Towards Their Actual Mission?  Whether your passion is art or education, there is a charity that would like you to apply your hard-earned bucks to use for their mission.  Choosing a charity can be a hit or miss, though, if you don’t do your research. It’s fortunate that we have certain watchdog groups in place to monitor their activities and financial information.  Charities must fill out certain documents and that documentation is supposed to be available to the public.

Use these Watchdog Services to Monitor Your Money

Charity Navigator is just one group in that you can select to monitor your donations. There are several other impartial groups who collect information and present it for donors’ consideration. Choose any of the reliable Watchdog agencies below when deciding to give your money away

The American Institute of Philanthropy puts out this website that rates hundreds of charities on their financial dealings. If you know the name of your charity, searching will be much easier.

GuideStar – GuideStar collects 990 forms and other public financial data for many charities. It focuses on a community interface that lets you leave commentary about specific charities as well.

Give Well – Give Well reviews hundreds of charities in addition to giving you guidance in reviewing nonprofits they may not have reviewed yet.

Donating Your Money To CharityQuestions You Should be Asking

If you find that the charity you want to give to has not yet been rated on any watchdog sites, you can do the legwork yourself. Ask the following questions when you’re researching to help guide you on your giving:

Is the nonprofit actually a charity? You can find this out by searching for its 990. This information is typically found on a charity watchdog site; however, you can also visit the Wise Giving Alliance at the Better Business Bureau to see if anything has been filed for your charity. Note that religious institutions such as churches and synagogues typically do not have to file a 990.

Are there complaints against the charity’s practices? Again, this information is found easily on the Wise Giving Alliance website. Do the charity’s marketing materials clearly state the problem and explain what they are doing to help? Be wary of charities who drone on about the problem but fail to state what they are doing to help it.

Money Doesn't Grow On TreesAsk the organization what percentage of donations go to actually support the programs in lieu of overhead and administrative costs. Be wary of a charity that says 100% of donations go to support the cause. After all, there has to be at least some overhead.

Informed Giving

Making informed choices is the best way to make sure that your dollar goes to support causes that you deeply care about. To further ensure that your money is well-spent on a cause that you are passionate about, consider volunteering your time and talents so you can see first hand what happens from donation dollar to the delivery of programs and services.

Federal Trade CommissionThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace. The above organizations comply with FTC codes.  Always make sure the agency you donate to has the Federal Trade Commission Emblem and disclaimer.

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