There are countless charitable organizations worldwide, each focusing on different marginalized sectors – the children, the elderly, war-afflicted, migrants, and individuals with various conditions, as well as other disabilities.

A high number of charitable institutions means the competition for donations has become more cutthroat, made fiercer by the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Prohibitions in non-essential gatherings have made organizing fundraisers next to impossible for the time being. Hence, nonprofit groups are becoming more aggressive in collecting contributions.

Whether by phone, email, and various social media platforms, these organizations are hard-pressed in getting your donations to keep them moving.

However, as donors, you’d want your money to go to your intended recipients without any hitch. Ready to donate? These three tips can help you assess whether your beneficiaries are getting your donation’s worth:

  1. Do your research

Perhaps, the biggest question you have in mind right now is, “what is the best charity to donate to?“. Well, it depends on the cause that’s closest to your heart. There are nonprofit groups, big and small, that cater to various underprivileged sectors. All you have to do is choose (after reading these tips).

Before choosing a charity to donate to, flex your research skills and have the answers to the following critical questions:

  • Is it a legitimate nonprofit group?

Countries have various laws governing charities. In the U.S, for instance, organizations that earn more than $50,000 annually are required to file financial information before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). And so are charities that earn less than $50,000. To further validate the organization’s legitimacy, check various sites intended for charities for further information.

Group of volunteers with boxes looking at camera in community charity donation center, coronavirus concept.

  • Is the charity financially transparent?

Charitable organizations are obliged to issue detailed information to their existing and potential donors. To start the process, ask for a copy of the latest annual report. Check how much money goes to the beneficiaries. According to CharityWatch, at least 60% of the donations should go to programs and services. Only 40% or less should be spent for fundraising activities, general administration, or operational expenses. Some more established nonprofit groups can allocate up to 75% or higher to their services.

Look for the numbers to see whether you’re giving out to a financially sound charity and not contributing more to their “fundraising” or “public education” activities.

A reputable organization will definitely be responsive to your queries and requests for transparency in spending.

  • Are they really working with disadvantaged groups?

It might be an unnecessary question to ask well-established or more stable charities (although it’s a valid query nonetheless). If you’re planning to donate to the local nonprofit groups, you may check local charities by asking around.

Contact the organizations they’re claiming to support to validate their claim. You can also ask your friends or acquaintances if they know someone working for the organization or have heard about the group.

  1. Watch out for red flags

Not all charities are the same, of course. Some are more flexible than others, and overall, these groups run their activities guided by different policies. However, some practices are unprofessional and may be considered questionable.

If you’re subjected to any of these, run for the hills:

Asking you to give your donations on the spot. It’s called donation for a reason. It means the donor handed the amount (or item) wholeheartedly, without force or undue pressure. Legitimate nonprofits should sense that you’re having second thoughts and, as such, should not coerce you to whip out your wallet or cheque right away. You have all the right to say “no” or postpone your donation until you have enough information about the group.

Asking for your financial details. Charitable groups would never ask for your credit card or debit card number. More so, the personal identification number (PIN) for your bank cards. When this happens, never give out your information and report to the proper agencies.

If you’re donating online, you should enter the details yourself (although you also have to be careful to avoid phishing) and receive an email or an electronic copy of the receipt reflecting the transaction details.

Asking you to donate in exchange for “gifts.” Some organizations that use direct mail solicitations attach small items in their donation forms. This in itself is not prohibited. What’s unlawful, though, is for charitable organizations to ask for payments for any merchandise that was not ordered or sold in the first place. Be wary of groups that attach anything from cards, calendars, keyrings, chains, and other items, and ask you to donate a certain amount in order to keep these items.

  1. Hand your donations directly

Now that you have an idea of what separates legitimate and questionable nonprofits, the next thing to consider is, “would you be giving donations in cash or in-kind?”.

Whatever mode of donation you choose, make sure to:

Seek in-person donations. You may be giving out a sum that’s nowhere near the amount coming from the world’s richest individuals, but that doesn’t stop you from making sure that your cash is put to good use.

Avoid giving out your donation via a third-party website to avoid the risk of your donations not reaching your intended beneficiaries. If your donation goes through an intermediary, the likelihood of it being delayed, diverted, and subjected to kickbacks, are high. Also, wouldn’t it be more fulfilling to see the faces of your beneficiaries while receiving the goods?

If there’s no other way to do it but only through a professional fundraiser, make sure you have the institution’s number to confirm if they’ve received the cheque or cash.

Consider other forms of donation. As not all donors can afford to give financial contributions like those, you may choose to hand over material things like food, shelter, hygiene, and any other useful items.

Some nonprofits accept unconventional yet equally essential goods such as car donations. Still, others accept voluntary work as a form of “donating your time.” So, the options for giving are boundless.

The Bottom Line 

After validating the good deeds of your chosen charity, never hold back on your donations. With millions of people needing your help, you’ll never go wrong in giving anything that you can spare—whether it’s cash, cheque, goods, or your invaluable time and effort.