The last quarter of the year, known as the "giving season," is a crucial time for both charities and donors. Half of the nonprofits that participated in a 2010 fundraising survey reported that they receive the majority of contributions during the last three months of the year, and online giving has peaked at the end of December in recent years.
GuideStar offers the following five tips to help donors get the most out of their end-of-year charitable giving.
- Clarify values and preferences. What do you value? Do you have an artistic streak? Do you love animals? Have you lost a friend or family member to a terminal illness? Consider the type of charity that you'd have the best connection with. You'll feel even better about your giving when your donations align with your values.
- Focus on the mission. GuideStar is a great resource to find the charity that meets your values. Look up a specific nonprofit in GuideStar's database of 1.8 million organizations, or use the advanced search to find charities by category, size, and location. Once you found a nonprofit that interests you, dig a bit deeper into the organization's GuideStar profile, visit the nonprofit's Web site, or look into recent press articles or media mentions of the organization to learn more about its mission and programs. GuideStar's TakeAction resource center provides expert analyses of more than 25 causes and high-impact organizations working on those issues.
- Verify a charity's legitimacy. With a glance at a nonprofit report on GuideStar, you can find out if it is a legitimate tax-exempt organization. Nonprofits that do not meet IRS criteria are flagged. If a charity is not on GuideStar, ask to see its letter of determination. If the organization is faith-based, ask to see its official listing in a directory for its denomination.
Get the cold, hard facts. A reputable organization will:
- Define its mission and programs clearly and will also discuss its programs and finances.
- Have measurable goals.
- Use concrete criteria to describe its achievements. Visit ChartingImpact.org for a nonprofit's impact report.
- Be willing to send you literature about its work or direct you to a Web site.
- Take "no" for an answer. It won't use pressure tactics.
- Trust your instincts. If you still have doubts about a charity, don't contribute to it. Instead, find another nonprofit that does the same kind of work and with which you feel comfortable, and donate to that organization instead. Remember that even a small donation makes a difference. And, last but not least, charities need support year-round. Why not make a commitment to give $10 a month to the charity of your choice for the next year, rather than one big gift now?
Research is the best way to make sure that your gift is going to the right charity. Resources such as GuideStar (www.guidestar.org), Philanthropedia (www.myphilanthropedia.org/guide_to_better_giving), and Charting Impact (www.chartingimpact.org) are great places to start when you want to give with your head as well as your heart.
Download These Tips
Download our one-page PDF of these tips, then share them with supporters, friends, constituents—whomever you wish.
© 2011, GuideStar USA, Inc.