How to Decide Which Charity to Give To
Updated: Jan 11
You’ve decided you want to allocate some money to a charity. Generally speaking, most people choose an organization that aligns with their own values, passions, and interests -- but even using that filter to help determine an organization can still leave you with hundreds of organizations to choose from. So, which one is most deserving of your donation, and how can you be sure the funds you contribute will make the desired impact?
1. Decide if you want to make an impact locally or globally
They both have their pros. When you give locally you might feel like your dollars have more of an impact and you’re able to see how your contribution allows your environment/community to flourish. But, giving globally might mean your contribution goes further. A smaller gift can go a long way in terms of bringing services to a poor community.
2. Do your research
Start with a broad search and narrow it from there. You can use websites like GreatNonprofits.org, Philanthropedia and GiveWell.org to find information on a charity’s income, spending, mission and executive salaries.
3. Stick to the giving plan (try not to make one-off or impulsive decisions)
It’s natural to want to help in the aftermath of a disaster or humanitarian crisis. But be wary of veering off of your planned giving path. When making impulsive decisions, you’re more likely to give to a charity that you haven’t vetted properly. Instead, see if you can use an already trusted charitable organization to address headline-making events.
4. Watch out for red flags
⚠️ New organizations
⚠️ Unclear missions
⚠️ More than 35% spent on overhead.
All of these things could indicate something isn’t quite right with the organization in question. If you’re worried about fraud, mismanagement of funds, or an organization's legitimacy, experts say it can be useful to see which charities your alma mater, house of worship, or employer supports, since their philanthropic efforts are likely to have been undertaken only after rigorous vetting.
5. Use the resources the organization has (read the annual report, call and talk to a donation officer, etc.)
As with most charitable endeavors, the satisfaction you derive is often linked to how hands-on you are with the organization. Getting involved — or seeing it in action for yourself — is part of that fulfilling experience. Use this step to help decipher which endeavor could be a good fit for you and also as a jumping-off point for getting and staying involved in the organization.