During the past few years, I've started making regular charitable donations, often to organizations that focus on various issues related to Alzheimer's disease. I want to feel like I'm doing my part in remembering my mother and grandmother, and also to stop this disease before it effects me or others that I love.
What I've found out is that there are scores of non-profits seeking funding. The challenge becomes determining how to ensure that your donations are going toward funding important research and/or services, as opposed to administrative costs to run the non-profit. The December 2007 issue of Oprah magazine had some suggestions on what to look for when selecting non-profits:
- The charity's track record. The article suggests two ways to examine the charity's accountability: The Better Business Bureau's Wise-Giving Alliance (give.org), which evaluates nonprofits on 20 standards, or Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org), which rates charities based on how efficiently they use your money.
- The charity's use of funds. Charity Navigator provides free reports which give information on CEO salaries, funds used for development, and other expenses. The rule of thumb is that 75 percent of a charity's budget should be used for programs directly related to its cause.
- The charity's name. Some charities opt for names that sound like established, well-known charities. Thus, you may think you're giving to a sound charity when in reality you are giving to a lesser-known and respected one.
- Opting for donations instead of purchasing a charity's tie-in product. Often charity tie-ins with products result in only pennies to the organization, instead of the amount you originally would have sent. So think about writing that check directly to the organization instead of buying that product.
While writing this article, I went onto Charity Navigator's website to learn more about Alzheimer's related charities. I was surprised to find that the Alzheimer's organization that I normally give to only has a two-star overall rating, which was derived from receiving one star for organizational efficiency and four stars for organizational capacity. In comparison, Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation is rated much better (four stars for organizational efficiency and three stars for organization capacity for an overall rating of three stars).
That information is making me consider where I want to put my hard-earned money in an effort to stop this terrible disease. I hope you'll do your own homework on the charities you choose to support so that you and your loved ones can get a good return on what you give.