Choose Your Charities Wisely
All you have to do is check the mail during the last two months of the year, and it’s easy to see just how hard it can be to make year-end contributions.
By early November, mailboxes begin to overflow with annual giving appeals from a wide variety of nonprofits. And they all engage in compelling work.
So how do you make smart decisions about charitable contributions? With so many organizations doing vital work, which one should receive your donation?
There are numerous ways to ensure your dollars are direct toward well-led, high-impact organizations. To begin, some philanthropy experts recommend the following online tools to evaluate a nonprofit before donating.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance helps donors make informed decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public. Charities are evaluated against comprehensive Standards for Charitable Accountability, a set of 20 criteria that fall into the categories of Governance and Oversight, Measuring Effectiveness, Finances, as well as Fundraising and Promotional Materials.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance does not rank charities. Rather, it assists donors in making informed judgements about organizations that are soliciting their support by assessing each criteria for that charity based on three ratings: Standards are Met, Standards are Not Met, or Unable to Verify. Lena Pope, for example, meets all 20 standards for charity accountability.
Evaluations are posted for free public access on give.org.
The most comprehensive nonprofit compensation analysis available, this resource requires registration (guidestar.org) to access an organization's Form 990.
This platform allows donors to evaluate the operational health and impact of nonprofits using 175 data points. All donors can access the same nonprofit due diligence process that's used by family foundations to give millions each year. Analytics in the database are updated annually.
Aside from conducting online due diligence, donors can look at two other key factors: research and measurement.
An important consideration in giving wisely is to determine how a charity evaluates its effectiveness. This is something that can be measured in many ways. Does the agency use independent auditors to benchmark performance? Or does it measure itself against industry benchmarks and best practices?
For example, as part of its SOS program, Lena Pope partners with Tarrant County Juvenile Services to determine the success rate of the youth served against a recidivism measure. The program achieved a success rate of 91 percent last year. That can be compared to national benchmarks, which indicate that without treatment, youth with a first offense will recidivate (commit another juvenile crime) at a rate of 30 to 50 percent.
Lena Pope also relies on external audits to gauge success against state or federal standards, such as the TEA’s fiscal accountability measure. The agency scored 95 out of a possible 100 to achieve a “Superior” rating.
Donors can also assess whether a nonprofit’s mission is supported by academic research. Are attempts made to ensure it uses evidence to guide practices?
At Lena Pope, for example, that means ensuring a strong literacy focus at Chapel Hill Academy because research shows that if a child is not on reading level by the 3rd grade, they are four times less likely to graduate high school by age 19. And because data points to the fact that social-emotional development is a critical component of a child’s short and long-term successes, Lena Pope implements evidence-based models at both the Early Learning Center and Chapel Hill Academy in support of it.
Lena Pope is proud of its focus on evidence-based programming and financial responsibility. If our successful programs meet your personal giving criteria, please consider making a secure online gift here.