Let’s be real. The commercials on television designed to get you to donate money to non-profit organizations tug at your heart strings. Sad music with visions of poor children in war torn regions of Africa, a dying woman’s please to donate to Breast Cancer, or the battered animal organizations vying for your dollar to help adopt a forlorn one legged puppy are difficult to ignore. The truth is that all of these causes, and the many other causes looking for donations are worthy. Your heart is invested and many people feel good making a monetary donation, believing that their 25 cents per day is going to feed a hungry child. What is not so compassionate is the reality that very little of YOUR money, according to leading research, is actually going to the cause that tugs at your heart. The non profit organizations looking for monetary donations have hefty bills to pay that include marketing, salaries and operational fees that suck up a large percentage of the donations they yield. And many, many non-profits are head up by very profitable people that compare to CEO’s in the private sector.
This is why before you sign the check over to your favourite non profit you do a little research. Not all non profit organizations are the same, and some give more to the research that actually saves lives and donates to the cause than others. For instance, The Terry Fox run in Canada raises 32 million a year, of which 30 million goes to the charity and 2 million goes to administration. Meanwhile, the Breast Cancer society of Canada raised 48 million and only donated 24 million – thus a sheer half of all the money went to organizational functions of the society such as paying high dollar CEO’s.
The truth is that many of the massive research non profit organizations that usurp large campaigns and fund raisers are only giving minimal amounts to the actual research involved in the cure. And as a donation consumer, it can be very difficult to know where to put your dollars so that they can be put to the best use. Many of the commercials and on paper revenue reports are slued and misleading to say the least. And the truth is that so many large non profits have acquired so much familiarity that many people automatically assume they are the best means for a proper donation.
Luckily, there are several websites that can give you a breakdown of the monetary investments made by non profits. And since these web sites are not partisan or sponsored by one charity over the next, they can help donators like you make the best decisions about where to give your money. One of the most relevant and informational web sites for gaining information is part of the Better Business Bureau and is located at www.give.org. At this website you can search for your favourite charity, look them up by type and get a relevant 20 part report that will disclose all the information you need to choose wisely. It also gives you a comprehensive overview of the mission, governance and staff, funding reports, programs, tax status and a detailed financial report of your chosen organization. If your charity has not registered or has information missing from their profile, you can contact the charity directly to get a disclosure.
For instance if you are interested in donating to a youth services agency, you will see that one particular charity utilizes around 65% of their overall raised funds to administrative costs. This means that your $100 donation is feeding executive’s board members much more than it is helping a child. Ask yourself, did you mean to donate a limited 35% to your charity of choice? Is this a valuable enough contribution when you wrote the check for $100?
Additionally, by looking up agencies at the BBB Giving Wise website, you can see if there are any complaints against the agency and ensure they are within government compliance. In Canada, the same information can be obtained at the Canada Revenue Agency. They too have a searchable base of charities that you can look at to find specific information about which charities will donate the most money to the cause of your choice.
There is nothing wrong with having a big heart. The reality is that most charities start out because an individual was personally touched by a disease or cause and they chose to act. However, as charitable organizations grow and with so many overhead and associative costs of administration, even non-profits become mega money making businesses. At some level you have to expect that non profits are looking to inherit operating costs as well as donations for the cause they support. Yet, realizing that a non profit which targets the heartstrings is fattening up wealthy executives from your wallet, is a rude awakening that every ‘donation consumer’ needs to be aware of.
Be smart! Donate wisely. Be leery of any organization that claims to donate 100% of their proceeds to the charity, as the confusion is more in the language than the interpretation. Very few agencies give even close to 100% of funds raised to the research or cause. If you come across an agency that feels especially close to your heart, then take the extra step and do some simple research in order to ensure you are giving to the BEST charitable organization for the cause that will make the most of your hard earned dollar.