• Would you like to help people suffering from natural disasters or other terrible calamities? It can feel overwhelming trying to determine how to be most effective with your gift. There are more than 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the United States according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS). With so many options, how can you be sure your money is reaching where you meant it to go?

    The most useful online tool we’ve found is Charity Navigator. For the past 16 years, the website organization has been providing online tools designed to help benefactors in their search for intelligent giving. Charity Navigator has current information on more than five thousand charities. Their database organizes charities into a broad range of categories including the most popular and the most followed charities as well as charities that are suffering from financial difficulties.  The site also offers a host of resources with advice for first-time and regular donors.

    They do the  homework by examining the charity’s financial records. The cause should direct at least 75 percent of its budget to the services and programs it is set up to provide. Charity Navigator gives you several options for looking into a charity’s background. Find a charity in their alphabetical listings, or you browse specific categories, such as environment, animals or human services.

    Find the Most Reliable Charities

    To find charities with the best financial transparency and accountability, check the four-star rated charities. The site hosts a data base of more 1600 well-run and effective charities, so that you can be sure your donation is reaching its destination.  Type the organization’s name into the search engine and you will be directed to complete details of the charity’s mission, policies, and annual income statements. Other useful information is also provided, such as the charity’s compensation to leaders, financial performance metrics and the latest news on the charity. There’s even an option at the bottom of the page that allows you to check out similar or regional charities.

    For example, if you would like to help the victims continuing to suffer from the lack of electricity, water and health care as a result of Hurricane Irma  Charity Navigator  has compiled a list of highly-rated organizations responding in the aftermath of the hurricane and providing assistance to Puerto Rico and the other communities affected by this storm. Donors can designate their donations to the cause on the organization’s website. All listed charities have made their designation policies available on their respective websites.

    Another useful tool is the Charity Navigator Top Ten lists. Clicking here will take you to a range of lists from most followed charities to highly-rated charities with low-paid CEOs. Top of the former chart is the American Red Cross. Clicking on their link reveals that they have a three-star financial rating and a four-star accountability and transparency rating. Scrolling down you will see that 92.2 percent of their finances go to program expenses, and that in 2011 their total revenue was $3,452,960,387. You also can access the organization’s historical data for the past three years.

    You can become a free registered personal user of Charity Navigator so you can flag specific charities that interest you and organize them in your personal charity portfolio.  You can compare them directly in your portfolio and even share them with your friends or fellow fundraisers.

    Research can help you avoid the frustrations many people have felt during previous crises. In June 2011, the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti estimated that Haiti received more than $1.6 billion in relief aid and around $2 billion in recovery aid following the 2010 earthquake. That amounts to around $328 per Haitian. However, two years after the disaster, more than half a million Haitians remained homeless and the clutter of debris remained where it had fallen. In addition, cholera became endemic throughout the country and is still sickening thousands today.

    Giving to others in need is an important interest for many women. It feels even better when you have confidence in the effectiveness of your gift.

    Another good way to think about your choices is described in Deciding How to Link Your Charitable Pie   What’s the best way for you to use your money to help others?  PS. He thinks giving to a well-endowed college is not it!

    More information:
    National Center for Charitable Statistics
    Charitable Navigator

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