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Tips for Choosing a Charity

February 6, 2018 | Alyssa Condrey

By NeW Intern, Meg McEwen

You have just heard the good news: a friend is planning to nominate you for NeW’s Gentleman Showcase award! The catch? You have no idea which charity to support.

You remember the soup kitchen down the street from your childhood home that you used to volunteer at over the holidays. They could use a donation. A faint sound of a bell ringing reminds you that you walked past the Salvation Army booth at the grocery store yesterday, not a dime poorer. Here is the perfect opportunity to bless that organization. Television images of hungry, bereft children in third world countries remind you of the aching needs overseas, and you wonder if you should donate to a global organization.

The possibilities are endless.

Representing a charity all the way to the finish line is a big deal. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1) Look for needs in your local community

Not only will this option enable you to give back to your local community, but you will be able to watch your dollars in action. Small charities generally make ends meet by scraping from the bottom of the grant barrel, relying on a significant volunteer force, and receiving donations. So keep your eyes peeled. Talk to a friendly firefighter about the budget or look for a niche nonprofit charity that helps a specific demographic. Is there a large population of homeless people living under a bridge, downtown? Every month, a nonprofit organization meets at my church to provide free babysitting and other services for children with autism. The organization is the first of its kind in the area, so it shoulders a huge responsibility for a large, overlooked demographic. Consider checking inside your local community before you check outside.

2) Give in response to catastrophe

Natural disaster and crises often smite nations with floundering infrastructures. Consider donating to organizations that provide desperately needed health and education services as well as essential food and clothing items. Puerto Rico’s fatal brush with category five Hurricane Irma closed the blinds on the country, leaving most of its 3.4 million population without power. Months later, officials say that 35% of the country’s population still lacks electricity. Likewise, as the novelty of Europe’s refugee crisis fades, the needs of the growing number of refugees in camps across Europe only increase. More than 3,000 refugees died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in 2017. The International Rescue Committee not only provides benefits to refugees, but it also actively protects affected women and children and provides programs for participants to develop long-term job skills. Find and support an organization that mitigates the collateral damage of natural disasters, conflicts, or persecution.

3) Make it Personal

If a charity positively impacted you or someone you know, consider seizing the opportunity to bless others in a “pay-it-forward” gesture. Charities can be broken down into six categories: health, education, veteran, environmental, international non-governmental organizations, and arts and cultural. Make the time to research game-changing charities in an area of need that you are passionate about. Medical organizations like St. Jude Children’s Hospital cover the treatment, travel, housing, and food for children with cancer and their families. Such organizations rely on generous donor contributions to make that possible. Other charities, like the Wounded Warrior Project, address the physical, mental, and emotional wellness of veterans by providing free healthcare and counseling services. If you participate in an anti-trafficking or other humanitarian club at your college, think about donating to a larger organization that lines up with your club’s ethos. Get in touch with the charity to gain sponsors and spread the word.

4) Do your Homework

Treat this process like any other financial decision by investigating a charity’s business practices and resource allocation. Even a cursory google search can raise warning flags and indicate charity malpractice. From 2008 to 2012, the Cancer Fund of America conned $187 million from unsuspecting donors. Less than 3% of the money benefited cancer victims, and the benefits mostly included frivolous gifts that you could pawn off a cheap hotel – like shampoo and batteries. The other 97% of the donations financed the CEO and his family’s cushy lifestyle. Though Cancer Fund of America presents an extreme and unusual case of fraud, you may still be surprised at what you find out about other charities. Check out Charity Navigator, an online resource that provides unbiased reviews and data about other charities. According to the website, “The organization helps guide intelligent giving by evaluating the Financial Health, Accountability and Transparency of over 8,000 charities and provides basic data on the rest of the 1.4 million U.S. nonprofits.” Charity Navigator provides a list of questions that you should ask a charity before donating, including what sources are available to increase my confidence in your work? Organizations should have their form 990 and audited financial statement readily available for donor review.

There you have it! Now you won’t have to flip a coin to decide which charity to represent in the Gentlemen Showcase. Before you begin madly clicking “share” and advertising yourself as a candidate for the Showcase, make sure to choose a charity that you can get behind. Be proud of the charity you represent, and make the effort to learn more about it than its name. What charity are you hoping to fund as the “Gentleman of the Year?” #GentShowcase

Nominations for the the Gentlemen Showcase are being accepted now through February 14th. Voting will be open the last two weeks in February. Don’t miss out on your chance to win a $1,000 donation to the charity of your gentleman’s choice! Learn more at www.gentshowcase.com.

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