July 26, 2007
A Primer on Giving: What to ask before you start
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"Not only can the donor examine the charity's finances, but the charity's willingness to send the documents is a good way to assess its commitment to transparency," she said.
You should also review executive compensation, and be able to compare it to comparable organizations, Charity Navigator advises: "Sophisticated donors also put the CEO's salary into context by examining the overall performance of the organization. They know it is better to contribute to a charity with a well-paid CEO that is meeting its goals than to support a charity with an underpaid CEO that fails to deliver on its promises."
But don't go only by the numbers.
"There's a tendency now to rely on the Web-based charity services like Charity Navigator and GuideStar," Fishel said. "Sometimes it may be helpful -- but I think it's looking at apples and oranges and kiwi fruit: Charities are different, the nature of the structure, how they report things are all different," he said. "When in doubt, talk to a charity directly."
7. How Do I Know If a Charity Is Meeting Its Goals?
Charity Navigator recommends all donors take time to ask charities about their programs, missions and goals. Some questions include: Can your charity clearly communicate who they are and what they do? Can your charity define their short-term and long-term goals? Can your charity tell you the progress it has made (or is making) toward its goal? Do your charity's programs make sense to you? Does the organization have the expertise and capacity to enact its proposals? Is there a clear work plan with a realistic time frame, specifying the activities, interventions, services, and/or programs that will be carried out? Is there a clear plan for evaluation?
8. What Other Pitfalls Should I Look Out For?
Charity Navigator says to be aware of mail and online scams. (In recent years many people have been swindled by e-mail scams.)
Fishel said to be aware of duplication of charitable efforts.
"Very often I find people are giving to things that are already in place," he said. People go with "the flavor of the week. In the last few years, there was a growing disparity between the haves and have-nots, and a number of new charities proliferated. Not everyone did due diligence to where the money was going," Fishel said.
Of course, sometimes new initiatives headed by young, energetic and connected people can bring an influx of funds to a little-known or particular cause.
In general, Charity Navigator said, don't worry: "Our research has shown that the overwhelming majority of charities in this country are not only responsible and honest, but well-managed. So we give with confidence. You should feel the same way before you give.
Do whatever it takes to put your mind at ease. Use your rights to gather data so that you will be comfortable. Good charities will encourage this. A happy and trusting donor is a willing and supportive donor."
For more information, visit http://charitynavigator.org.
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