You’ve heard the phrase, “Charity begins at home,” but what does it mean?
People most often use it to convey the idea that you need to take care of the needs at home before you go outside to help others. I think of it in a different light and would begin with this question. How do you know you are getting the most for your donation dollar? You don’t even need to cheat to get the answer. You need to do your homework. In other words, begin at home to check out the charities before you give.
Those who know me understand I have an altruistic bent. I want to use my time, talent and treasure to impact the world and make a real difference. Not-for-profit organizations are of great interest to me, especially if I feel drawn to their cause and know they handle the donations they receive wisely. It goes without saying they must also accomplish their mission responsibly and efficiently. In other words, I want to make sure that if I donate a dollar (or more), I want to know that the majority of it is spent on the core objective rather than on administration and fundraising, although I do realize these costs are valid.
I found a wonderful tool called Charity Navigator to help me test the organizational waters of the largest philanthropic groups here in America. This independent charity evaluator not only shares the results of their investigations in a user friendly, easy-to-read format but they also provide their methodology for checking out the financial health and accountability and transparency of these groups. In addition, they provide other data about the charity including a synopsis of its mission, history, reviews and news. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine rated Charity Navigator “The Best List 2011.”
In today’s economy when money is tight both for you and the numerous charities vying for funding, it makes good sense to check their report cards first.