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GuideStar Blog

Another Way to Help as the Crisis in Haiti Continues

 It seems that everyone—including GuideStar—has a list of organizations helping in Haiti. And with these lists come questions. From donors: Which organization(s) should I support? From nonprofits: How does my organization get the public’s attention?

Further Thoughts about Helping in Haiti


Helping in Haiti


On Being Generous


Taking on the Ratios Myth Once Again


Who Are These People, and What Are They Saying About Us? Charity Reviews Debut on GuideStar

If you've looked at our new report pages, you may have noticed the "Click here to read reviews" and "Click here to write reviews" links to the left of the page. Click on the former, and you'll find reviews written by people who have firsthand experience with an organization. Click on the latter, and you'll be invited to write a review of your own.

From the President's Office, November 2007

Dear Friend:

We're now entering that time of the year when most Americans take the extraordinary step of making contributions to charitable organizations and many charities receive the majority of their annual revenues. We at GuideStar recognize that there is growing demand from the giving public to provide help in making better and wiser decisions, and we're exploring many ways to do so. At the same time, we're disappointed at some of the simplistic and inappropriate ways being used to judge charities, which we think often miss the mark or fail to measure adequately the impact of a nonprofit organization. For many of us, making a year-end charitable contribution has become something of a tradition. We need, however, to take care to assure that writing that check or clicking that donate button doesn't become a reflexive ritual that we perform without thought.

Making a charitable donation is a powerful act that allows us to create a positive, personalized impact on the world around us. With so many nonprofits performing such a wide variety of good works, it should only take a little bit of effort to find a financially efficient organization with a mission that closely matches your personal convictions. Choosing where to give is a process that can be divided into two basic steps.

1. Listen to Your Heart

  • Take a long look at the world and decide which issues are most important to you. Keep an open mind; they may not be the most obvious ones. Remember, this is your chance to have your say in how we can make the world a better place.

  • Decide whether you want to make a difference on a local, national, or international level. Do you want your donation to have a direct impact on your community, or would you rather support an organization with a broader scope?

  • Don't give to an organization simply because you gave to them last year. Review your priorities and make sure they're still in line with the organization's mission. The world changes, and so do you.

  • Avoid the temptation to give only in response to the disasters that are in today's headlines. Consider giving to the nonprofits that will be responding to tomorrow's emergencies or to the groups that continue to work on yesterday's disasters after they are no longer in the news.

2. Use Your Head

  • Once you've identified your priorities, use GuideStar's advanced search function to find relevant nonprofits. Or if you already have specific organizations in mind, look them up on GuideStar to confirm their authenticity and tax-exempt status.

  • Find out what the organizations' goals are and how they intend to accomplish them. Don't be swayed by marketing slogans and pretty pictures. Get the facts on the programs that they are currently running.

  • Look at their most recent to see where their money goes. Most nonprofits need to spend a portion of your donation on fundraising and administration expenses. But it's important to find out how much is going directly to their programs.

  • When in doubt, ask questions. If anything seems strange or if you can't find the information you're looking for, contact the organization directly. They should be more than willing to respond to the queries of a potential donor.
If you don't have time for soul-searching and on-line research but still want to donate wisely, you should consider making an unrestricted gift to your local community foundation. By doing so, you can ensure that nonprofit professionals will direct your contribution to where it is needed most.

However you choose to make your voice heard this giving season, please find a way to support the organizations doing work that you believe in. By doing so, you should be able to satisfy both your head and your heart.


Bob Ottenhoff
President and CEO

GuideStar's 10-Step Guide for Charitable Giving


Know Your Rights: A Donor's Bill of Rights


Another day, another piece of mail asking for a contribution. How do you choose? How do you know that your money will be used well? How can you ensure your mail will not automatically multiply once you've made a donation? A Donor's Bill of Rights can help you determine what is reasonable to expect of an organization to which you are considering making a donation.