Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wondering How Your Business Can Navigate the Maze of Giving?

Understanding philanthropy can be a maze that can confuse and discourage any business that would like to start a giving program. There are a whole lot of worthy causes out there that small businesses may have the desire to give to but don't understand the landscape of  philanthropy enough to know where to begin. While some businesses prefer to support local causes and non-profits, others would to like support organizations that address broader problems such as health, hunger, water, poverty, the environment, or world peace. And when disasters strike, like last year's earthquake in Haiti, knowing which types of donations and which charities are  the most effective at delivering aid becomes critical. 

Sometimes businesses may have a cause in mind  but are unsure of which charities deserve their philanthropy. Take for example the cause of promoting breast cancer awareness and supporting breast cancer research. With all the "pink" around in Oct. how would one necessarily know which breast cancer non-profit to give to -Susan B.Komen for the Cure or The Breast Cancer Research Foundation? What is helpful is to have a guide that anyone can use to check out the different charities and their effectiveness.

The folks at  Masters of Public have published online such a resource:  Give Smart: 25 Websites To Learn A Charity's Effectiveness and Efficiency. Their site offers the links to 25 websites of organizations and government agencies that rate charities, compile approval ratings, and unmask illegal behaviors. Small businesses can now have the opportunity to research which charities are well managed and which ones best serve their cause effectively which can help them make decisions on where to give wisely.

Joseph Morris the founder of Masters Of Business offers a basic definition of what qualifies as a charity:
According to the IRS, an organization qualifies as a charity if 35% or less of its income goes to administrative expenses such as salary and operating costs.
And he adds that:
With literally thousands of groups qualifying, it can be confusing to decide which organization to give to. Every day, the images of those who need help reach us, along with mailings, charity walks, food drives, and even guys dressed as Santa ringing a bell.
With literally billions of dollars at stake, how does the average person navigate this maze of giving?

Here are a few of the organizations that assess and rate charities using different criteria that Joseph Morris  has mentioned:

American Institute of Philanthropy- Stop here for a nationally prominent charity watchdog service whose purpose is to help donors make informed giving decisions. They rate, grade, focus on top salaries, and other hot issues in the charity sector. You can also read tips for giving wisely and hear what others have to say.a charity watchdog service help donors make informed giving decisions by rating and grading non-profit organizations.
Charity Navigator- This site works to advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the financial health of over 5,500 of America’s largest charities. You can browse by every category from animals to religion. There are also loads of top ten lists to keep you busy such as “Top 10 Most Requested Charities” and “10 Super-Sized Charities.” There are also tips, methodology information, and more. Be sure not to miss the blog with more in charity evaluation.lists charities by categories and evaluates the based them on their
Guide Star-The tagline of this site is “trusted data, customizable analysis, targeted results.” Recently reviewed organizations often make the list and are done by volunteers, clients, and donors. They even offer an Exchange Seal to outstanding charities.

In addition, the guide lists associations and government agencies such as the BBB ( Better Business Bureau), the IRS, the FBI, the FTC, other blogs and online reports that research and document fraud and illegal behaviors in the non-profit sector and other useful sources such as online news sites, and websites, most notably The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

This is a terrific resource where any business can find almost anything that one needs to know in order to be able make an informed decision about how best to administer their philanthropy.

Related posts you may be interested in:
Looking For a Cause
100 Books That Will Inspire Your Giving
How Not To Business Philanthropy Like Skecher's BOBS
Black and White and Pink All Over

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