Library Blog

Charity Evaluation Resources

Charity Donation General Picture

During this eventful time in our history many people are moved by the events occurring all around us and perhaps you’re considering either donating to or volunteering at a nonprofit organization.  There are also many organizations not directly involved in the corona virus pandemic or with social justice issues but their services remain vital to those they serve and need financial assistance and volunteers to keep their programs operational.

Maybe you’ve been approached by mail or email by an organization that you’re not familiar with.  The literature sent with the appeal sounds interesting, but is the information true?

You may want to take a look at some organizations that may be able to answer these questions, put your mind at ease and allow you to make good, well informed decisions about where hard- earned dollars will have the biggest impact.

Consider starting with the IRS at  Internal Revenue Service: Charitable Contributions to use the Tax Exempt Organization Search to see if contributions to the organization are tax deductible.

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance is linked on the Library’s Grant Center page under nonprofit organizations.  This site can be used by both the donor and recipient.  You’ll find an alphabetical list of charity reports and a list of BBB seal holders.  If necessary, you can even file a complaint from the site.  Each charity is evaluated for 20 standards and the user can easily see if the standard is or is not met or if BBB is unable to verify.

Some of the sections covered include governance and oversight.  Effectiveness is measured and finances are reviewed.  Solicitations and informational materials are also considered in the review.

A link to local BBB’s that evaluate charities in their area is included.  Give.org offers tips and advice on giving.

Another site for consideration in the decision-making process is Charity Navigator which is linked on the Library’s Grant Center page under nonprofit organizations.

Currently featured on the site is “a list of highly rated nonprofits fighting for equality and protecting legal rights”.  Details on each is provided.

A “hot topics” category is included and areas of particular interest are featured.  In addition to civil rights, Covid-19 top nonprofits is included in this list.

“Tips for donors” is another area that may give you confidence that you’re an informed donor.

GuideStar is another site you may want to become familiar with. Access it directly online or find it on the Library’s Grant Center page under nonprofit organizations. When you register for free at GuideStar you have access to complete contact information of the organization you’re researching.  “Revenue and expense data for the current year”, “forms 990 up to 3 years”, “Annual reports for all years”, “full listing of CEO, board chair and board members” are provided.  An important feature of the GuideStar database is the seal of transparency an organization can earn and the information made available to the reader.  Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum Seals provide the potential donor with information to make an informed decision.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Charities Research website offers some good advice for those looking for information on charities and charitable giving. It lists several other reputable sites not discussed here.

Charity Watch is another site to consider for evaluation of charities.  A free version is available as well as a fee- based membership.  Interesting information on the site includes their “donating tips”, “top compensation” and “high asset charities”.

The features discussed on these evaluation sites are just a piece of what these organizations work to accomplish.  I encourage you to look at the sites in more depth.  The “overview” or “about us” found on the sites is a good place to start.  This is not an exhaustive list, either.   I encourage you to do your research so that you will make informed decisions if you choose or are considering donating “your time, talent or treasure”.