TIS the Season of GIVING!
By Callan Group Client, Nita Schmellick, Pres/CEO with Community Foundation of East Central Florida

WE have all heard many stories of nonprofits, some very big and well known, being involved in a scandal or financial mismanagement. How can we trust that when we make a donation to a nonprofit it will be used for good and the agency is fiscally responsible with our money?

About 40% of all individual nonprofit donations are made in December. Charity Navigator projects nonprofits will raise at least $100 billion this holiday season.

Forearmed is forewarned when giving generously to a nonprofit you haven’t given to before. Here are four ways, women (and men), can make intelligent giving decisions during the holiday season and throughout the year.

1.) Do your homework
“Before you give, be sure to look at a variety of resources that will help you to evaluate the credibility and performance of your charity, like Charity Navigator or Guide Star,” said Susan Cooney, founder of Givelocity and formerly of PayPal and LinkExchange. Using these sources and others you can ensure that the organization is financially sound, accountable, transparent, and results-driven.

2.) Learn from other donors
The brutal truth is that people are more likely to talk about bad experiences than good ones and one of the easiest ways to share their frustration is via social media. Check Facebook and Twitter to find out whether a nonprofit you want to give to has a bad reputation. Use websites like Great Nonprofits, which serve as “The Yelp” for nonprofits, and the Better Business Bureau.

3.) Choose an “all-charity” giving platform
“Be wary of [general] crowdfunding sites,” warns Charity Navigator. “With little to no vetting going on by these platforms, they are a very risky way to donate [to a nonprofit].” This can be particularly true after a disaster or tragedy.

Sites such as GlobalGiving, Catapult, and Givelocity all have vetting processes. Fund for Women assists with vetting of organizations and projects for Catapult. Givelocity uses Charity Navigator four-star charities as its starting point. Members’ votes serve as a secondary filter.

4.) Learn from major corporations
Corporate giving has grown significantly over the years. Corporations do a lot of vetting before they tie their brands to a nonprofit. It’s usually a good sign when a nonprofit has a lot of corporate supporters.

A note of caution. No one methodology is foolproof. Susan G. Komen retains Charity Navigator’s highest rating of four stars and has lots of corporate sponsors (though it has lost many) despite drawing attention for paying its CEO a “very high” salary, withdrawing funding from Planned Parenthood, and its misalignment with a sponsor. Of course, the media and social media, took Komen to task so with a few clicks you’ll know about all the controversial things its done and on which side of the controversy you stand.

LOCALLY, you can use your local Community Foundation to help you research local groups that you are considering a gift. In Volusia, Flagler and Putnam Counties the Community Foundation of East Central Florida can be your resource. They are committed to building philanthropy in our community and helping donors with their giving. You can establish a fund with them and they will help you vet the agencies and make grants to them from your fund. They also have established Area of Interest funds that you can give $5 or thousands of dollars and support a cause you are passionate about such as: Arts & Culture, Animal Welfare, Environment, Education, Children and Youth, etc. The foundation makes grants each year to nonprofits in our community now and in the future. For more information, contact the foundation at: giving@cfecf.org or 386-734-4075.

‘Tis the season to give. Give generously but wisely.

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