We’ve done our fair share of ranting about two well-known animal “rights” charities on this blog so I thought it was time to talk about donating to charity. There are many wonderful charities doing good deeds for people, animals, and the environment and they need the public’s support. There are also quite a few charities that aren’t very effective at what they do, or mislead the public about their activities.
If you are looking to donate money, and you want to feel confident the funds are going to good use, you may want to ask yourself these five questions about a charity before making a donation.
1. What are the primary services they provide? This should really be the primary reason why you are donating to a charity – because you want to help someone or something. But it is important to know exactly what the charity is doing, especially if it isn’t obvious in the name (or the name is misleading). You may also want to investigate if there are different branches or offices you can donate to. For example, the World Wildlife Fund allows you to donate to help the rhinos, tigers, or other species in need. If you have the choice of directing your funds to a specific project, then be sure to choose the one that is most important to you.
2. Are the programs effective? (And how is effectiveness measured?) This will require a bit of detective work but asking a charity outright how they measure their successes and whether they deem recent programs to have been successful is a great start.
3. What percentage of the dollar goes to providing the services and programs, versus administration or fundraising fees? A good benchmark is 60% – if the charity is spending less than 40% on administration and fundraising then the charity can be considered to be using its donations effectively.
4. How are they rated? There are lots of websites rating charities, using different criteria. Two major websites rating charities are Charity Navigator and the AIP’s Web site, Charity Watch (this site requires a $50 per year membership.)
5. What do the press say about them? A simple online search of your chosen charity can expose you to a lot of positive and negative information about their activities. It’s important to be as objective as possible, which is not always easy. Usually a simple search will help to figure out whether your chosen charity has a good reputation. There are organizations who expose the underhand or misleading activities of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or The Humane Society of the United States – so if you are considering donating to either of these two charities, you may want to do some research at PETA Kills Animals or Humane Watch, first. Or maybe just donate to your local shelter, instead.
Here’s some further reading on the topic, if you are looking to dig deeper: