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How to Choose a Charity to Support in 2017 & 2018: Three Questions to Guide Your Search

Supporting a charity connects you to something important and allows you to make a real impact for good. Whether it's a grassroots organization in your local community or a global initiative spanning continents, every non-profit needs the support of caring and generous individuals. But how do you choose which charities to donate to? Whether you lend a hand through gift-giving, dedicated time, or event participation, there are three key questions to ask when determining which organization is right for you.

Question 1: What Do You Want to Support?

This first step is all about identifying a cause that's important to you. What do you care about? What issues do you see the world facing today? Combatting hunger or homelessness, enabling access to education, supporting the arts, or funding medical research are all ways to get involved.

A quick search online will give you more than enough inspiration for how to make the world a little better. For example, in May 2017, UN Secretary-General António Guterres made a statement at the World Humanitarian Summit in New York, outlining some of the most important social issues facing our world today including:

  • Displacement of refugees
  • Violent conflicts across the globe
  • Poverty and structural inequality
  • Natural hazards and extreme weather

Whether your goal is to address one of these problems, or any of the host of issues both at home and abroad, doing your part to help will be of the utmost importance in this coming year.

Question 2: How Do You Want To Help?

What kind of impact you want to have on the charity? Do you want to be an anonymous donor, have your name on the annual benefactor list, organize events, or take on an even greater role? It all depends on the time, resources, and experience you have to offer. That said, experience and resources are never necessary to make a big difference, and even the smallest donation or time commitment can help.

To help you come up with a method of support that is right for you, here are some ideas in charitable giving making the rounds today:

  • Online Opportunities. The Internet has made a lot of things easier and more fun, and charitable giving is no exception. For example:

    • FreeRice.com donates food through the World Food Programme every time you answer quiz questions correctly
    • Goodsearch.com raises money anytime you shop online, search the web, or utilize any of their free tools
    • Tab for a Cause is a browser extension that raises money with every tab you open

      One especially good way to raise money online is through crowdfunding on platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. It is a very effective way to raise money. In fact, it was estimated that worldwide over US $34 billion was raised this way in 2015.1,2 To capitalize on this growing trend, Glaucoma Research Foundation has a new website that will allow you to create your own online fundraiser: The Cure is in Sight.
  • Going the Distance. Running, walking, biking, and even walking the dog can all be used to raise funds for charity. For instance, the Charity Miles app not only keeps track of how far you walk, run, or bike, it donates money to the charity of your choice for every mile you complete. Longtime medical donor and Glaucoma Research Foundation supporter Jerrold Keilson runs and bikes marathons to raise money for new research.

  • Making it Personal. You can turn pretty much whatever you do into an opportunity to raise money for your favorite charity. Handmade crafts and toys, clothing, blankets, even furniture can be offered to help those who are homeless or hungry, as well as those undergoing difficult treatment regimens.

    You can also use your own celebrations and life events to raise funds for charity. In fact, they are a great chance to give back. Instead of a bridal registry, for example, you can set-up a charitable registry. Gifts for a bar mitzvah or a graduation can be donation items like canned food and used clothing.

    Explore ideas to raise funds for glaucoma research and education.

Question 3: What Kind of Charity Should I Be Looking For?

This can be the most enjoyable part of the process, and as you start to learn about how your cause is supported, it will give you ideas about how to play your part. To streamline the process of choosing a charity, try using these three steps:

  • Make a list of potential charities that match your cause. The first step is to make a list of the charities that match your cause. Do online searches yourself, ask friends and family, or use a website like Charity Navigator to develop your shortlist.
  • Decide which important qualities your charity should have. There are three criteria that are important to see in any charity.3 If even one of these is missing, the best bet is to cross that charity off the list and move on. You should be looking for charities that are:
    • Tax exempt 501(c)(3) public charities. There are, after all, tax consequences associated with charitable giving.
    • Financially healthy, which means the organization is better able to pursue their charitable mission
    • Accountable and transparent, which speaks to the charity's ethics and sense of responsibility
  • Research each charity on your list using the criteria above. Go to the charity websites and see what they say. Cross reference their claims on independent sites that rate charitable organizations. Talk to people who work at the charities of your choice to find out more information, or discuss experiences with other donors. You should be confident that your gift will be properly used. You can also judge their accountability and transparency by their willingness to speak with you. Organizations with nothing to hide have no problem speaking with prospective supporters.

Glaucoma Research Foundation: A Case Study in Effective Charitable Giving

To illustrate how these three questions could be answered, let's look at a great example of effective charitable giving using Glaucoma Research Foundation.

  • Question 1: What Do You Want To Support? You have a friend or family member who has recently been diagnosed with glaucoma. Because of this personal connection, you are invested in helping find a cure to this degenerative blinding disease. Your preliminary research also reveals that much progress has already been made, and just requires adequate funding to bring new treatment options to market.
  • Question 2: How Do You Want To Help? Thanks to your research, you know that much progress has already been made in the area of glaucoma treatment, but that government funding can only go so far. Most of these studies need funding in order to bring new treatment options to market. This suggests that monetary donations might be a very effective contribution.
  • Question 3: What Kind Of Charity Should I Be Looking For? You get online and search for glaucoma-related charities. Because of their high standing in the community, you find Glaucoma Research Foundation. After some research, you discover that GRF has the following ratings (out of 100) on Charity Navigator:4
Accountability and Transparency:100/100
Financial Health:88.66/100
Overall Score and Rating:91.98/100

These scores indicate an organization that has the financial health and strong ethics to make real change in the world. All you need do now is confirm it. You view their financial figures, as well as testimonials and up-to-date news about breakthrough therapies and treatments. Once you've done this, the last step is to have a conversation with a member of the organization and discuss how to get involved.

And there you go, all three questions have been answered successfully. Now, you are well on your way to making a difference for your community and the world with the confidence of knowing your gifts will be used honestly and effectively.

If you are interested in learning more about the ways you can give to your community in a meaningful way, please consider giving to Glaucoma Research Foundation and help support the ongoing battle against glaucoma.

  1. Bruce, Denise, "9 Creative and Easy Ways to Give to Charity." Compassionate Crowdfunding Blog. N.p., 18 May 2017. Web. 12 June 2017.
  2. Barnett, Chance (June 9, 2015). "Trends Show Crowdfunding To Surpass VC In 2016". Forbes. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  3. "Five Steps to Informed Giving." Charity Navigator. N.p., 07 Mar. 2017. Web. 12 June 2017.
  4. "Rating for Glaucoma Research Foundation." Charity Navigator. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2017.

Last reviewed on February 16, 2018

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