Volunteers sorting donations at charity drive

Choosing the charities you want to support

Charitable giving can bring great personal satisfaction and fulfillment, enabling you to support the causes that align with your passions, values and interests. Of course, navigating the sea of charities available and narrowing down your choice is crucial to arriving at the decision that’s right for you. Whatever your wishes, you want your contributions to make the biggest positive impact possible. So how do you go about identifying the charitable organizations that best meet your objectives and accommodate your priorities and preferences?

Questions to consider when evaluating charities

Is the charity well established and does it have a good reputation? Look at any recent news, talk to members of the board to get their opinions and, if you know any donors, ask them why they chose to support the charity.

How is the charity supporting a specific cause in relation to other charities doing so? For instance, how focused are they? Do they try to do too much with too little? How many beneficiaries are they helping? Do they appear to be more successful than other charities like them? Knowing more about all the charities that focus on your passion can help you make a well-informed decision and allow you to target your donations to a few specific charities rather than giving a small amount to many.

How does the charity focus on the specific cause you are interested in? For example, if your desire is helping families battling cancer, you can choose to fund cancer research, a specific kind of cancer or all kinds, or programs that support families during time in treatment.

Finding more information about charities

You also want to make sure the charity you choose will use your donation wisely. There are a number of organizations that research the financial health of charities and their commitment to transparency and accountability. Websites such as Candid and Charity Navigator are a good place to start. Candid is an information service specializing in nonprofits. You can enter a category such as “cancer research” in the search bar and see profiles of relevant charities. Charity Navigator has comprehensive ratings and metrics on the cost-effectiveness and overall health of nearly 200,000 charities.

You can also look at a charity’s IRS Form 990. Ask a charity to provide it or look for it on their website. It holds a lot of good information, including how much revenue they bring in and how it is allocated; the charity’s governing body, purpose and resources; and disclosures on whether the charity is abiding by best practices.

Talk to your financial advisor

Your financial advisor can explain how having a charitable plan in place can help you give more to your favorite causes. Talk to your financial advisor about your options.

"Your Giving Plan" Worksheet from Raymond James

Download this guide to help you define your philanthropic goals, establish your giving priorities and establish a road map for your personal giving plan.

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