Finding a charity to donate your hard-earned event money to is always tricky because you want to make sure the money is going to the people in need. Often times charities end up spending most of their funds on their own campaign and operating costs, and some even commit outright fraud! It’s all very similar to the homeless man you see standing on the freeway off-ramp: if you give him money, is he really going to go buy food or buy booze? That same feeling can get exaggerated ten-fold when finding a reputable non-profit to tie to your event, because in this case you’re dealing with other people’s money and not your own. Although having your event attached to a charity can help you increase attendance, as well as aid a worthy cause, it can also be a stressful experience choosing the right one. Thankfully there are numerous industry watchdogs out there that are helping ease the process.
To locate and weed out non-efficient or fraudulent charity organizations, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance has recently changed its guidelines when it comes to evaluating charities. In order to be considered reputable by the BBB, a charity/non-profit must spend at least 65% of its revenue on its needy. The charity must also send annual reports to the BBB, quickly reply to any complaints, and meet a long list of qualifications (see the full “standards for charity accountability”). Some feel the BBB’s system is flawed however, because it is dependent on full cooperation of charities to accurately disclose all financials, complete a questionnaire, and comply with all additional requests for information. Regardless, it’s still a great reference point.
Another organization known as the American Institute of Philanthropy evaluates and scrutinizes charity tax forms along with audited financial statements in order to pinpoint sub-par charities and “maximize the effectiveness of every dollar contributed.” Their validity lies in their industry independence, meaning they do not charge charities to appear on their lists and they do not accept advertising on their site. Furthermore, they evaluate many charities the BBB may skip including social welfare groups not eligible for tax-deductible contributions, like the ACLU and HRC.
Finally there are numerous independent organizations such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator, with user-friendly interfaces that help simplify charity breakdowns. In addition, many state regulators are beginning to build their own standards for charities and making their findings available to the public (for Californias go to oag.ca.gov/charities). With all these tools in place, finding a reputable charity has never been easier.