Amen and Alleluia! Jennifer Franz’s [Meadville Tribune] column from Friday, October 21 preached to the choir of ethical and caring nonprofit staff people. I’ve received address labels and even dollar bills from organizations attempting to raise money. It is shameful when “charities” use lazy or questionable means to get a buck—and give very little back. It reflects badly on those of us who raise funds responsibly and deliver on our promises. (Happily, I’ve never seen these tactics employed by local organizations.)
Jennifer inspired me to share some thoughts about charitable giving.
Always investigate the organizations you support. The best resource I know for this purpose is the website guidestar.org. They provide detailed information about nearly every charitable organization; including their IRS filings. You can also research organizations that fundraise in Pennsylvania through the Bureau of Charitable Organizations. They are the same people you should speak with if you feel your charitable gift has been misused.
Good organizations are pro-active. It should not take a lot of effort to find out that your money was used as it should have been. A reputable organization will always send you a thank-you letter and give you an update about how your money was spent. They don’t deserve your hard-earned dollar if they don’t do that.
I agree with Jennifer that it is best to give more to a few organizations than a little to many. Think about what problems and issues you want to target with your philanthropy. Choose with your heart those who work to make the world better in a way that is important to you. Choose with your head the organizations that use your money wisely.
It is also important to think about where you want your charitable dollars to be used. I run the Crawford Heritage Community Foundation and can testify that there is great need here. Friends and neighbors struggle to put food on the table and clothe their children. Lack of education keeps many in low-paying jobs. Some are devastated by domestic and sexual violence. Luckily, there are local organizations dedicated to helping people at these critical moments.
Give to a specific organization. Give to the United Way to support many causes at once. Or, give to the community foundation’s unrestricted fund. Each year, we make grants to projects that tackle challenges and problems facing our community.
I give locally and to have an international impact. People worldwide suffer from a lack of adequate nutrition, healthcare and sanitation. I am a Rotarian. I did my research and give to the Rotary Foundation. They make good on their promises and are using my money to get a match from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, we will eradicate polio worldwide. (A good indicator that your gift is worthwhile is if it gives you a feeling of satisfaction.)
A few minutes of thoughtful reflection on your giving will pay off for you and for the organizations you choose to support.