Most donors to good causes have moved beyond just writing a check to whatever charity catches their attention. Now donors are asking how they can really know that a charity does a good job.
We've always been able to check some ratings sites, but those have generally depended on making sure that a charity has the right ratio between expenses and donations. Times are changing though, and everyone is looking for results. Is that charity really making a difference?
Recently, several organizations that think deeply about this question have joined to help donors do a better job of figuring out which charities to support. Among them are GreatNonprofits, CharityNavigator, GuideStar, GiveWell, and Philanthropedia.
Here are some great articles and blog posts about how to figure out where your donations can do the most good:
- The Christian Science Monitor has done a good job of summing up this donor conundrum, and reports on some new tools to use in finding the best charities in Holiday Giving: How to Choose a Charity. The article focuses on Great Nonprofits, founded by Perla Ni who decided to bring user reviews to the process of choosing a charity.
- Beth Kanter shares her donor philosophy and provides several suggestions for how to do your homework on good causes in How do you make your holiday charitable giving decisions?
- GuideStar's Bob Ottenhoff writes Taking on the Ratios Myth Once Again, with links to helpful donor guides.
- Ken Berger, of Charity Navigator, says overhead is still legitimate as part of a charity's evaluation in The Worst (and Best) Way to Pick A Charity This Year; while Tim Ogden of Philanthropy Action insists that "donors who use overhead ratios to evaluate charities are doing more harm than good."
- The New Philanthropy Capital Blog says that "cheap doesn't always equal effective" in its Better Ways to Analyze Charities; and Allison Fine writes Busting the Overhead Myth, in which she discusses the punitive consequences of emphasizing overhead to the exclusion of other factors when judging a charity.
The question of how best to find the charities most deserving of our support is not solved by a long shot. But the lively debate and the appearance of new tools, theories, and methods are promising.
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