During the holidays, people are inspired to give more generously to charities than any other time of the year.
In fact, more than half of respondents from an Ask Your Target Market survey a few years ago said they give to non-profits throughout the holiday season.
But whether you plan on giving a money donation or dropping off a new toy, trying to identify legitimate charities from irresponsible ones can be challenging.
That’s why we put together this helpful guide on how to evaluate charities on your own, including what factors to consider and what tools you can use to make the process simpler.
3 factors to consider when evaluating charities
Non-profit watchdog Charity Navigator recommends that, when assessing legitimate charities, you should consider the organization’s financial health, transparency, and measurable results.
1. Financial health
When reviewing different prospective places to donate, take a look at how much money they spend on programs versus administration costs.
While non-profit workers deserve to earn a decent salary too, you do want to see the majority of the organization’s funding go towards actual programs in the community, rather than towards fundraising.
Also, look at the organization’s sources of funding. Some rely almost entirely on grants from a single source, like from the government or another charity.
That can put them at financial risk if their grant or main source of funding falls through. Stronger charities have multiple sources of funding to see them through difficult times.
Another issue to keep in mind is CEO and executive pay. Some non-profit executives make well into the six and seven figures.
Depending on your views, you may decide to give to smaller charities, where salaries are more modest. And, more of your donation is likely to go directly to programs.
Legitimate charities hold themselves accountable and make their information available to the public.
Therefore, look for their annual funding reports, financial information, and form 990. That’s the form the IRS requires all non-profits to file annually on their websites.
If these documents are not available, that’s a red flag to keep in mind.
Also, do a quick Google search to find out what the organization has been doing within the community. That can give you a very clear view of what their role is and how the neighborhood views the non-profit.
When it comes to programs, look for real results.
Charities should be able to tell you what they have accomplished in years past. For example, how many homeless people they’ve permanently housed, how many shelter dogs have found homes, or how many meals their food bank has provided.
If you can’t find any numbers, or if the information is very vague, that may mean that they are not tracking their data. Or, perhaps they don’t actually have good numbers to report.
Resources to use as a charity guide
There are a number of resources to use to research different charities. The best part is that a team of professionals run these sites.
Most of these organizations provide careful audits of organizations’ finances, programs, and staff, and give them ratings based on their performance. They can be invaluable resources when looking for legitimate charities to support.
Charity Navigator is one of the best-known tools. You can search by organization name, or look for a group in your interest area that’s close to you.
Charity Navigator will also break down the organization’s expenses and accountability, then give them an overall rating.
Wise Giving Alliance
Search for an organization by name for an in-depth profile.
If a charity isn’t included, what does that mean?
While Charity Navigator and the Wise Giving Alliance are terrific resources, they are not inclusive of all charities that exist. Although they try to include as many as possible, they don’t cover many organizations.
Most of the non-profits covered by Charity Navigator, the Wise Giving Alliance, and other similar tools are large and established. They have been around for years and are well-known in the community.
Smaller non-profits and newer organizations that are just a few years old are often not included on these sites.
That doesn’t mean they’re not a good organization, or that they do not do worthwhile work. It just means they have not been around long enough for the sites to profile them.
If you’re interested in supporting a particular charity but they’re not on Charity Navigator or the Wise Giving Alliance, don’t cross them off the list.
Do your own research, instead. Evaluate their financials, transparency, and effectiveness on your own before making a donation decision.
Giving to legitimate charities
While it’s great feeling inspired to donate to charities this holiday season, do your homework to ensure they do good work in the community.
That way, you know your money will be used wisely to make a difference in the lives of your neighbors.
For more information about charity watchdog groups, check out our more in-depth article on the top three sites.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.23% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 6.23%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|