Donating time or money to charitable causes is an important part of many Americans’ lives. Close to three-quarters of the more than $315 billion given to charity in 2012 came from individual households. Giving allows us to help organizations that positively impact the world, it gives us a feel-good factor, and in some cases it can provide us with benefits come tax time.
But with well over a million IRS-registered charities in the U.S., giving can be a confusing and sometimes frustrating process. We all want to give to charities that will use our time or money on projects and programs that will make a real difference in the world. However, it’s not always easy to tell which charities are doing the best work. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to help donors make informed decisions about their giving.
Informed Giving Is Effective Giving
We all want to feel like the time and money we donate to charities is making a real difference and improving lives. When we look at some of the most important private foundations engaged in philanthropy today, it’s hard not to admire the ways they are dramatically improving areas like global health or education. The reason these foundations have been able to make such an impact is because their giving is based on thorough careful research and close assessment of all the projects and charities they fund.
With the resources provided below you can provide yourself with the kind of information expert analysts at private foundations use to decide where to put those foundations’ money. Think of your charitable giving as an investment in creating a better world. You wouldn’t invest in a company if you didn’t have confidence in that company’s ability to create value. Using these resources you can give yourself similar confidence that the charities you give to will create value of a different kind.
If you are interested in giving to a charity working in the field of international aid and global health, GiveWell is a great resource. GiveWell is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of their analysis to help donors decide where to give. They recommend three charities that they deem highly effective and likely to benefit from additional funding
as well as providing reviews and information about a number of other organizations.
research on nonprofits by surveying experts like foundation professionals, researchers, and nonprofit senior staff
. Using the advice of these experts, Philanthropedia has created lists of recommended charities working on a variety of international, national, and local causes, including international disaster relief, arts and culture, violence against women, and climate change. At present, their recommended local causes are primarily based in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Minnesota.
Charity Navigator has rated 6,000 of America’s largest charities in terms of financial health and accountability and transparency
. Use their searchable database to find a nonprofit that matches your passion, or browse their top ten lists or their list of 4-star rated charities to get a sense of what’s out there. New ratings are added each month, so check back if you don’t find what you’re looking for right away.
CharityWatch is a project of the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) that grades charities on their effectiveness. The criteria used to determine a charity’s grade
include: portion of total expenses spent on charitable programs, how much is spent to raise each $100 of funds collected, and how long a charity with large reserves of available assets could continue to operate at current levels without any additional fundraising. For a $50 membership fee, CharityWatch also offers access to their periodical, the Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report
Universal Giving connects people to volunteer and giving opportunities worldwide by ranking charities according to a trademarked Quality Model
that includes Patriot Act compliance, financial vetting, management review, nonprofit status verification, and several other criteria. Universal Giving allows you to sort volunteer and giving opportunities by continent or by type of project, which makes it easy to focus your giving on a particular cause or a particular part of the world.
Bright Funds has used data from all of the above resources
to build high-impact funds of nonprofits working in six target areas: the environment
, and human rights
. Using an interface that is both intuitive and sleek, Bright Funds makes it easy to support the most effective organizations focused on the issues that matter most to you.
The design of your portfolio is fully customizable—for example, you could put 40% of your portfolio in water, 30% in education, 20% in health, and so on. And if you want to add a charity not in Bright Funds’ pre-built funds to your portfolio, you can add any 501c3 registered nonprofit in the United States. The single platform for giving to multiple charities also allows you to get a single tax report for all your donations.
Bradley DePew works with the Bright Funds marketing team. Bright Funds is an innovative platform partnering with individuals and companies to change the way we think about giving. For more information visit Bright Funds.org.