Making Meaningful Donations

I had the idea for this blog post over a month ago and meant to write it then, but things have been busy at CharityScenes. Not to mention, I have a full time job, which is... well... a full time job! All work and no play has left a few extra bucks in my pocket, so while donating my time is difficult right now, I can definitely find a few minutes to write a check or click a button. I can feel pretty good about it, too; cash donations are often the most needed and impactful way to contribute.

That said, as a donor, it’s okay to be critical and ask questions to ensure your hard earned money will be put to good use. Some non-profits are just better at this than others. Today’s post will highlight some great resources that help ensure your change ($) goes towards real change (<3)!

Let’s say you want to donate to the American Red Cross. Search "Red Cross" on CharityNavigator and a detailed profile of the non-profit will tell you the amount per dollar that goes toward programs & services ($0.90 at Red Cross – nice work!), how much goes toward administrative expenses like salaries or office space ($0.04), and how much goes toward raising more money ($0.06). You can also check out who else is donating (private grants, government funding, etc.), how money is spent (financial statements), and more. If you’re unsatisfied with the information you find, CharityNavigator makes it easy to check out charities similar to the one you just searched, or you can browse curated lists.

Similar to CharityNavigator, GuideStar provides a third party assessment of different charities. Unlike CharityNavigator, GuideStar offers in-depth background and evaluation information for larger charities to help you better understand how their numbers add up. Figures don’t look as strong as you hoped? There may be a reasonable explanation. GuideStar fills in those gaps so you can feel good about the trajectory of the organization and how your dollars will be spent going forward. 

Still not sure where to start? hosts a blog called Immediate Needs that features one story a month on giving to a particular cause. For example, diabetes is a national epidemic; Immediate Needs will highlight key points and background information with helpful insight, then serves up multiple options to which you can direct your resources (e.g. the American Diabetes Association, the Diabetes Research Institute, or the Joslin Diabetes Center).

Another place to start is your own backyard. Network for Good has a great search function that allows searching by zip code, so you can find a local organization to support and then read up on their activities. & CharityScenes

We wouldn’t be doing right by our own boards to ignore the fact that you can browse either site to find great non-profits with devoted young professional supporters in Chicago. Click through to associate board sites and find the “donate” button, or show financial support by making a donation to a fundraiser, even if you can’t attend.


So you’ve checked out the sites, donated your money and now you’re tight on cash? There’s still more you can do! Stay tuned for our next blog post to learn how to donate clothes, furniture, and other goods.