Giving Back

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Choosing a charity that’s right for you

Donors play an integral role in the success of charities and other nonprofit organizations. Such firms would be unable to remain operational if not for the support of private donors whose volunteering and financial contributions make it possible for organizations to meet the goals set forth in their mission statements.

Recognizing the important role they play in the success of a charity, donors may be overwhelmed when faced with the decision of which charity they want to work with or donate to. The following tips can help donors make that often difficult decision.

• Find a cause you can connect with. Many people are more motivated to support a charity they have a personal connection with, whether that support involves donating money or volunteering. For example, you may be more likely to get involved with a charity that raises funds for cancer research if you or someone close to you had a bout with cancer. A cause you can connect with is one that's more likely to inspire you to do more, which is a goal of many people upon deciding to work with or donate to a charity.

• Consider something local. If you intend to volunteer, then consider a local charity, as you might be more involved if you work with a charity that sponsors programs or routinely hosts events or functions within your community. Another advantage to choosing a local charity is that it allows donors to have a direct impact on their own communities, something that may spur donors to become more involved as time goes on.

• Dip your toes in the pool. Once you find a charity that aligns with your passion and, if you plan to volunteer, your schedule, you can take steps to see how the charity is attempting to fulfill its stated mission. Even if you don't have the time necessary to regularly volunteer, sign up for an organization-sponsored event so you can verify that the charity is doing a good job with its programs. You may notice the charity is wasting resources on nonessential expenses, a red flag that may suggest your donation of time and/or money would be better spent elsewhere. But you may notice that the charity is doing a great job and feel confident that your donation won't be going to waste. Conduct this trial run before you decide to support or fully volunteer with a charity.

• Ask around. Much like you might read a product review or ask a neighbor for a recommendation about a contractor, you also can ask around when researching which charity to work with. If you want to work with a local charity, then ask others in your community if they can recommend an organization. If you don't have time to volunteer but want to donate, research a charity online before making a donation. Sites such as Charity Navigator ( and Guide Star® ( vet charities and can prove to be valuable resources for prospective donors who want to learn about the missions, legitimacy, impact, and financial health of charitable organizations.

Choosing a charity to work with is no small task. But prospective donors can take several steps to make the process go smoothly.