According to a 2006 annual report by The Giving Institute (formerly the American Association of Fundraising Counsel), total giving to charitable organizations rose to $295 billion, which is a one percent increase from 2005. The majority (approximately 76 percent) of the above donations came from individuals.
Many of us want to share our blessings with those less fortunate. There are thousands of charities serving the needs of children, the homeless and others, and they rely on the public's donations to provide their services.
But how can we be certain that an organization asking for our contribution is legitimate?
How can we be assured that the money is going where it will do the most good?
To evaluate a nonprofit group, Give.org
suggests asking for a written statement with the exact name of the group, the organization's
purpose, how the group achieves its goals and how much of your dollar is used for true
charitable purposes. Some fraudulent groups use "sound-alike" names to make you think you're giving to a reputable
organization. Other groups with good intentions do not have a clear operating plan,
meaning that your donation may not be well spent. You'll find lots of helpful information
at the bureau's Tips on Giving and
Frequently Asked Questions.
It's important to consider whether you want to give to a national or local charity.
Perhaps you want to give your money to an organization with a proven track record
or help a new group get off the ground. Charitable Choices offers suggestions in
Thoughts about Choosing Charities to Support.
The Better Business Bureau's Philanthropic Advisory Service covers mail appeals,
street solicitation and tax questions at Tips on Charitable Giving.
Independent Sector offers Ten Tips on Giving Wisely
and a list of who to contact to investigate an organization.
The beginning philanthropist should check out the
American Institute of Philanthropy.
Its stated mission is "to maximize the effectiveness of every dollar contributed
to charity by providing donors with the information they need to make more informed giving decisions."
The site contains tips and answers to frequently asked questions, and you can order a copy of their
"Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report."
Now that you've learned more about charitable giving, how do you find charities
that are involved in causes you feel strongly about? These sites will help you
find the right organizations, research their reputability and contact them. In
some cases, you can make a donation online.
This coalition of charitable organizations provides
services in local communities, across the United States and around the world.
The site offers links to hundreds of groups and you can donate online.
Independent Charities of America
The mission of this group is to gather high-quality
charities for giver consideration, help givers find the charities that are doing
work they'd like to support and to help charities reduce overhead by putting them in touch with possible donors.
The Combined Federal Campaign compiled more than 300 charities that met its
10 accountability standards. You can make an online donation to many of them.
Search GuideStar's database of more than 700,000 U.S. nonprofit organizations
to find detailed financial information and links to charity sites.
Sept. 11 Charities
Many organizations are collecting money to help the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. GiveSpot.com has a list of many general relief funds, as well as charities for New York City victims, Washington, D.C., victims, and firefighters and police officers.