Choose Your Charity Wisely


Here we are in a new year. It’s a fresh start and full of possibilities. In 2012, many families have resolved to dedicate more of their family resources to charitable organizations. Currently the average American gives 3-5% of their adjusted gross income to some sort of charitable cause. Adoptive families tend to be among the most charitable of all. But how do you decide which charities are worthy of your hard earned monies and how do you avoid scams posing as charities? Most of us would like our monies and talents to go to an organization that most mirrors our values and philosophies. Two particular websites can assist us in this endeavor and can prove to be invaluable when making those altruistic decisions. advises that it “works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the Financial Health and Accountability and Transparency of America’s largest charities”. This website is very user friendly and begins by providing a place to simply get details about your charity of interest. Just type in your charity of choice and up pops the organization’s description. Venture down the site and one can see imperative information regarding the financial health and the transparency of that health. Each category is graded and the viewer can see historical information and detailed data regarding the leadership of the organization including the board member’s names. is an equally informative site allowing the viewer to actually review the reports of non- profit organizations. It will check research goals and verify compliance with federal regulations. Guidestar also lists organizations according to their function instead of simply by their name. In addition to reviews, Guidestar has valuable articles on questions to ask charities before committing to funding them and outlines a donor’s bill of rights. Some of the Guidestar suggestions for choosing an appropriate charity include:

  • Get the facts. A reputable organization will define its missions and programs clearly, have measurable goals and use concrete criteria to describe its achievements.
  • Compare apples to apples. Be sure to compare charities that do the same kind of work, especially if you’re looking at their finances. The type of work a charity does can affect its operating costs dramatically.
  • Avoid charities that won’t share information or pressure you. Reputable nonprofits will discuss their programs and finances, do not use pressure tactics, are willing to send you literature about their work or direct you to a Web site, and will take "no" for an answer.
  • 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 then make your donation.

Whether your family is adopting a child or a charity, you want the decision to really reflect who you are and what you stand for so choose wisely and do your research beforehand.