According to Statista, in 2015, “there were about 1,088,447 public charities” in the U.S. If you’re a volunteer or a group of volunteers looking for the right mission to donate your time and money to, that’s a lot of options. At that point it’s important to make sure you choose a reputable organization, with similar goals. To help guide you, we’ve listed a few helpful tips to keep in mind when donating your time and money to the right nonprofit:
1. Make Sure Your Values Align
This may seem the most obvious, but it is also one of the most important things to keep in mind when working with a nonprofit. Since many nonprofits have missions focused on community betterment, they tend to have a list of core values that inform how they go about those missions.
For example, an organization like the Salvation Army has a very strong religious foundation that is integral to how they conduct themselves and their projects. Some people could have similar backgrounds and so that’s a great selling point which allows them to get on board with the mission right away. For others, they may like some of the projects, but if the motivations aren’t the same it can be hard staying engaged. Therefore, it’s important to take the time and research why a nonprofit is engaging in the work they do to make sure it resonates with you on a personal level.
2. Understand Their Needs
Since we work with nonprofits everyday, we have definitely learned the importance of listening first. Enthusiasm for your chosen nonprofit is great, but it’s only half the battle. Make sure you are communicating with the organization so that you understand their needs and can help them make the largest impact. You could excitedly show up with a trunk full of toy donations, only to find out they recently finished their toy drive and really need socks.
Many nonprofits will utilize a wish list or newsletter to communicate their up-to-date needs. The important thing is to reach out before leaping into action.
3. Avoid Shady Organizations and Scams
Unfortunately, some organizations will pop up soliciting donations for a crisis or some urgent project that are less than reputable. This is when research really comes in handy. It’s easy to get swept up in the moment, because you want to help and don’t want to waste time. I promise, though, you’ll be glad to take the extra moment to dig a little deeper.
One tip is to just start with searching the name of the organization and add “complaints” or “scam”. More likely than not, if they are illegitimate, someone is already talking about it. If you want to go even deeper, there are also helpful tools like GuideStar to help you vet a nonprofit.
Finding a local chapter of nationally recognized organizations like United Way or Kiwanis is a great start for working with legitimate groups. Legitimate or not, you should never be shy to ask probing questions. Make sure you know how successful an organization has been with it’s missions and resources. That could be the deciding factor for if their are worth your hard work and money.
Charity and philanthropy are beautiful things and we applaud all those you participate in it. When you are able to find that mission you truly connect with, it makes it all the more rewarding.
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