Since joining the team at Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana in Fort Wayne as the Director of Development & Marketing, I’ve been endlessly amazed by the generosity of individuals in my community. Thirty-seven percent of our total budget comes from individual donations; needless to say, we take our relationships with individual donors seriously. We want to make sure each one feels engaged and also confident we will be good stewards of his or her gift. We mean it when we say we could not do what we do without the support of our community, and we work hard to make sure those donations are put to good use.
Being a recipient of giving has afforded me an interesting perspective about philanthropy and has transformed me into an overly-diligent donor. Before joining Cancer Services, I donated to various organizations without much thought. Meaning, if you asked me for money, you were probably going to get it, at least a little. But now, because I see the effort Cancer Services puts forth to be responsible and accountable to each donor, I expect that of all organizations to which I give. The current economic climate has affected the philanthropic environment, as well. Whereas, I previously had more to give and therefore gave more freely, now I have to take a serious look at where each dollar in my budget goes. So choosing a reputable and responsible non-profit organization is even more important. I hear this over and over from our donors, as well. They want their dollars to go farther and to make as big of an impact as they can. What organizations can help them achieve this?
Okay, I’ve digressed. My point is once you’ve identified your passion, whether it’s cancer, literacy, hunger, homelessness, you name it, there are tools you can use to match that passion with a reputable and responsible organization who will put your donation to good use, whether locally or nationally. Here are a few:
- Guidestar.org — Provides a comprehensive non-profit directory, including a super convenient search feature. The directory includes Form 990, financial statements, annual reports and other documents you can review to see exactly how the organization is funded and how it uses those funds. The website also provides a five-star rating system and the ability to read reviews posted by constituents of the organization.
- CharityNavigator.org — Helps you find a charity you can trust and includes a search feature so you can review important information about non-profit organizations. It also helps you identify your passion, matching it with an organization, along with an informative blog to assist you in better understanding philanthropy, and how it can enrich your life.
- GiveWell.org — Provides ratings and research, along with a helpful blog.
- Nonprofit Tech 2.0 — One of my favorite non-profit centered blogs, offering helpful information about non-profit best practices.
If you can’t find sufficient information on these websites, I recommend you contact your local community foundation and other foundations for recommendations. Because these organizations are constantly reviewing applications for funding, they have their finger on the pulse of the non-profit community in your area. The Better Business Bureau is another place to connect with for recommendations.
Last, but certainly not least, make an appointment to visit a prospective charity. I’m always happy to show people around our facility, and any organization interested in cultivating a relationship with you will do the same.