Check, BEFORE You Donate by Text, or Send a Check

The first holiday solicitations arrived around Columbus Day.  A package with holiday wrapping paper, some thematic greeting cards, and (still more) personalized address labels.

Most of these mailings were not inexpensive.  Had donated to some of these causes in the past, but several came in my maiden name-which I have not used in 18 years.  That I received them at all can only be attributed to my having the same address, and mail carrier-for that long. 

Pricey, or repeated unsolicited mailings always make me wonder about the overall value of the organization itself (like how much service I’ll really get from an insurance company that every week spends money to send me something telling me how much money I’ll save by switching…!) or in this case, how wisely, how effectively does a charity utilize donor funds.

Need and giving are hugely emotional issues that touch our core; under ‘normal’ circumstances  the next 6 weeks  is high season for giving-and asking. But now we on the east coast have come to know Hurricane Sandy.

In the days and weeks to come, chances are we will be asked, and perhaps motivated and able to make a charitable donation or two.  We all want to be sure our donation will be used properly and efficiently, here are two  ways to give with our heads as well as our hearts.

To get an overall, independent read on different charities, try Charity Navigator. acknowledges  charities have different services and programs, which leads to inherently different cost structures. They break over 10,000  charities into classifications and rate them on their efficiency, in their classification. Their top ten lists feature the effective, as well as the overpaid, and the broke; eye-opening and interesting reading, to say the least. Just like BBB certification, charities that want to belong apply and provide vital info like contact info, their history, size, structure as well as a financial statement. BBB will tell you if the charity meets their 20 standards for accountability, and if their info is vetted, a Wise Giving Alliance report is issued, good for 2 years.

Best for providing a snapshot of , and credibility for a particular organization. Because charities have to apply, it is unlikely any less than stellar ones would. Seeing your favorite here is a positive, but not being on the list isn’t necessarily a negative.

Both sites are very useful , and for those who are really interested-The Chronicles of Philanthropy is a great source of info for non-profits

In the wake of  Hurricane Sandy, and the harsh realization we were just a few towns away from total destruction, I keep coming back to this quote, incongruesly from Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”