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5 Questions to Ask Before Helping a Non-Profit | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

5 Questions to Ask Before Helping a Non-Profit

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” – Anne Frank

People are good at heart, but when we reach out to help others, in addition to helping them, we must carefully discern how and when to help other people.

Most people may be good at heart, but a few who work with a few nonprofits are not. That fact marked my life in ways I wish it had not; one of my family members who raised funds for a charity stole those funds and went to jail because of it. As a result, people who thought they were helping poor children were swindled, as was the charity involved.

With that personal experience, I am extremely careful with nonprofit fundraisers and donations. I only support causes and organizations I fully agree with, that I believe are being good stewards of the time, talents, and treasure they are given.

Sometimes, a charity’s fundraiser may become a popular fad, and others jump on the bandwagon without first asking these questions.

Please, please ask these questions before helping any charitable organization:

  1. What does the organization believe? Do their mission and vision statements, as well as foundational beliefs, agree with your own? Often, this is not an issue. But what if the organization you are supporting works in ways that are directly opposed to your core beliefs? The good news is there are enough charities out there that you can find others for the same cause whose core beliefs more closely reflect your own.
  2. Who manages the money and how? Determine what percentage of the funds generate go into administrative costs and also how much goes into direct services. How frugal are they? Charity Navigator and other sources can help you determine this.
  3. Where does their line item spending go? How much goes into direct services in your local area? Be sure to evaluate this one on a yearly basis with national organizations – some great causes streamline by cutting services to area communities. Does the organization have accounting and audit reviews in place to ensure money is properly spent and documented?
  4. How do they manage their fundraisers? This again goes into the accounting. Fundraisers must be carefully managed from a financial standpoint because they offer the greatest temptation to that small group of volunteers who have sticky fingers.
  5. What are the organization’s short term and long term goals? Have they developed short and long term plans so that when you donate to help them, you have a good feeling that the charity will still be here in 1, 5, or 10 years?

Most of us want to help those in need. I think that’s a basic human response to suffering. It feels good to know we did something to help solve someone else’s problem.

However, don’t just jump on the fundraiser bandwagon because everyone else is helping a worthy cause. Make your help deliberate and intentional, so that you know the help  you give is used in the most effective way possible. That will feel even better.


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