How to Properly Vet Nonprofit Groups Before Donating

Is That Non-Profit Legit? Here’s How To Tell (Especially Before Donating)

( – Some people feel drawn to a cause and want to thrust their whole being into it. Others find their interest piqued by current news and seek to commit some time and resources to right a perceived wrong. Others are touched by a story or situation and pass along a quick donation and may or may not follow the outcome.

For any of these types of donors, and whether they are giving money, volunteer time, or expertise, vetting the groups they donate to will give them more confidence that their resources are being wisely invested. In this online world we inhabit today, checking out groups before donating has become easier. Here are some ways potential donors can learn more about organizations before donating.

Understand the Group’s History

A non-profit agency doesn’t need to have been around for 100+ years to prove a good track record of using donors’ money wisely. As community needs and politics change, new agencies can spring up to fill voids and meet the demands of current donors, but they still should show a commitment to spending donors’ funds and time wisely. This might mean checking out the history of the founder(s) to determine their background.

Of course, longer-established groups will have a history that can be followed online or through various groups that compile reports on non-profit groups.  The Forbes Nonprofit Council also recommends checking into their primary donors, because well-known donors will have done their research to ensure they are giving to reputable agencies.

Know What the Group Stands For

Some groups or underhanded individuals choose a name that implies a group will do one thing and mask their intent with a lot of vague language that doesn’t really tell what the group stands for. If a group’s goals are clear, does it also clearly state an action plan on how it intends to promote or accomplish its goals?

If the group has a website or social media presence, reading about their accomplishments should be pretty straightforward.

What Do Others Say about the Group?

In a social media age, learning what previous donors think about a group becomes fairly simple. Donors will comment through social media about their experience with a group or will post Google reviews that are easy to find.

Media sources also will check into newer non-profit groups or ones that suddenly become prominent because of current events. Local media often will report about fund-raising efforts that begin to help a family or individual in unusual circumstances so donors better understand the situation.

How Transparent are They?

Reputable non-profits will not be afraid to present their financial information to potential donors. A donor can directly ask the agency for financial statements or 990s. They also might publish such information on their websites. Most reputable non-profits also hire independent accountants to conduct an audit and make these independent audits available to the public.

Non-profit tracking sites such as GuideStar provide information on more than 1.8 million IRS-registered non-profit agencies. They can even help donors find groups that are committed to their causes.

Plunge Right In

The Forbes Nonprofit Council also notes the best way to find out how an organization operates is to jump right in and get involved. If the cause seems to be in line with the donor’s values, chances are pretty good the match will be a fit. By getting involved, the donor will learn from the inside whether the organization is operating to the donor’s standards. And if not, the donor has the opportunity to effect change from within or leave the organization and become a source of information for others who might have questions.

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