Donating the Smart Way


Nothing feels better than writing a check to a charity or non-profit organization that does work we are passionate about supporting. Some people are meant to do the labor and others are simply meant to provide the funds. It’s a fantastic marriage that has been working for decades. Unfortunately, not all charities and non-profits are utilizing those funds in an effective manner. Or maybe they just don’t use your donation the way you would like. Here is our guide on how to donate and track that donation so that you can be sure your funds are being used to the best options available.

Picking the Recipient

Before you decide to send money, finding the right cause is crucial. The key place to start is simply what drives your passion. Do you want to support cancer research? Maybe donate to Big Brothers/Sisters program? Are issues pertaining to the homeless important to you? It doesn’t matter what other people support, what matters is that you are supporting a charity or non-profit that is alignment with your own concerns.

Research the Recipient

Whether you already have a charity chosen, or need to find one in a specific area of interest, you should be checking their status with Charity Navigator. It’s a free website that will tell you how charities and non-profits utilize their donations so you can feel comfortable with how your funds are used. It is also a fantastic tool to know when a charity has been shifty, or downright fraudulent, with their use of donations. If you are supporting a small local non-profit, it’s possible they will not be on the website. If that is the case, you are legally permitted to request the financial statements from the charity. Once you request that information, they are legally obligated to show you their documents. Non-religious non-profits will make this information available by providing Form 990. Religious organizations fall under different rules and will provide their own financial statements. If for any reason a non-profit should refuse to provide you the financial information, put your checkbook away and go in another direction!

Write the Check

While there are plenty of organizations that take cash donations, we recommend that you write a check or use a credit card to make your donation. This is an important step to ensuring that the organization is legit. Any non-profit that demands cash only donations are not legitimate and should be reported. Does that mean you can never make a cash donation? No! There are legitimate moments in which you can make a cash donation. Little jars out at a bake sale or paying cash at a car wash fundraiser are perfectly acceptable moments to make a cash donation. Furthermore, safe ways to wire money overseas can be used to ensure the funds will arrive at their destination securely.

Donate Goods Instead

While all charities and non-profits take cash, some need the help of donated goods. If your local homeless charity is spending a lot of money on printer paper, consider donating printer paper so that they can use the money directly on the folks they are helping. Organizations that cater to low-income families could use the help with used clothing, food, and school supplies just as easily as cash. This also helps combat donor fatigue!

Check on Your Donation

Larger charities and non-profits will not be able to track your donation to see how it was used specifically. It’s just not that simple when they are dealing with a substantial number of donations coming in on any given day. To combat this, you can write on your check how you want your donation to be used. It doesn’t mean they can tell you but it does show how you’d like to see that money used. Smaller, local charities may be able to tell you how your money was used. Before making the donation, ask! The worst thing they will say is that they don’t know. It can possibly help you decide on if you want to donate.

Donating is a wonderful way to give back to the community. Unfortunately, some people have chosen to take our kindness for granted. But by research and vigilance, you can be assured you are donating to the right organization.


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