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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

These 4 Questions Will Help You Give Confidently

It always feels good to give, but it feels even better when you know how your gift will be used to benefit the cause you care about. These simple questions paired with Charity Navigator’s free ratings and complementary tools will help you give confidently.

It’s easy to feel like charitable expert. Begin by doing some basic research on www.charitynavigator.org. Look up the organization and peruse their ratings profile. Compare the information you find to the information they provide on their website, in their emails, or on their mailed solicitations. If it all checks out, consider taking things a step further. Call or write to the charity to

What is your organization’s mission?

It sounds overly simple, but it’s actually a very important question. As a donor it’s important to know how the organization identifies the problem they are working and what their vision of success looks like. The organization should be able to explain this to you clearly. If they struggle to articulate their mission, they will mostly like struggle to advance it.

What are you organization’s goals?

We all set personal goals to help us move forward. Charitable organization’s are no different. Problems needs solutions and setting goals is a way of tracking progress toward solving those problems. They also provide organizations and their supporters with milestones to celebrate. Goals are something all stakeholders (constituents, donors, employees, etc.) can rally around to celebrate marked change.

As a donor, an organization’s goals should excite you and inspire you to give. By asking about an organization’s goals you are also opening a dialogue to better understand where your interests and talents may intersect with their work. Perhaps there are ways besides donating money that you can partner with the organization to help them accomplish them.

What progress is your organization making toward its goals?

If an organization has goals, it should be tracking its progress toward them. Ask how they’re doing. They may excited to report that they’ve met their goals and now they’re working to determine new goals. Or, they may admit failure. That’s okay as long as they can prove they’re learning from their actions and making plans to correct their actions and assumptions.

What sources are available to increase my confidence in your work?

Overwhelmingly, charities exist to make our world a better place. Most are honest, hard-working and accountable. Look for for things like their organization’s Form 990 and audited financials on their website. And ask the organization what other resources and materials they may have to demonstrate the success of their work. This could be client testimonials, field reports, or an annual report.

Already have a favorite organization? Consider using these simple questions to start a conversation with them. You can also find a new favorite charity using Charity Navigator’s Advanced Search Tool.

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