charitable givingUPDATED 4/16/2017 Want to give money to charity, but don’t know if the organization is reputable? The 3 steps you should take to make sure you’re giving to the best charities.

How to find the best charities to donate to

1. Check rankings with Charity Navigator and Better Business Bureau

There are several independent organizations that rank charities. Charity Navigator is the largest independent charity evaluator. It’s a free resource you can use to see how the charity spends its money. Does the majority of the money

It’s a free resource you can use to see how the charity spends its money. Does the majority of the money raised go to fundraising or the CEO’s pocket?

Charity Navigator focuses on the charity’s financial health and accountability / transparency.

You want to make sure a large portion of donations go toward programming and the charity’s mission.

The Better Business Bureau also has a charity ranking system called the Wise Giving Alliance. The BBB looks at 20 standards and makes it easy to see if the charity meets the standards with a check mark, an “X” or a question mark if it’s unknown if the charity meets the BBB charity standards.

The BBB looks at the board oversight, effectiveness, finances, and solicitations.

2. Look at the charity’s tax forms

Guidestar is also an independent charity resource. What makes it unique is that you can see the charity’s tax forms so you can be the judge of how well the organization spends its money. Once again, Guidestar is free.

Some organizations are exempt from filing a tax form, so don’t assume something is amiss if you don’t find one.

3. Check for state registration

Some states require the organization register with officials and there are searchable databases to check the validity of the charity.

In some states, charities have to register and offer copies of their tax forms. Some states make this registration easy to access with databases. While it doesn’t give you a lot of information, the database in Missouri and Kansas lets you know if the charity is registered. The information provided online is often basic in nature.

Missouri Check a Charity
Note: In Missouri a charity does not have to register.

Kansas Charity Check

The organization may also be searchable in the database provided by the Secretary of State.

Many organizations are exempt from filing IRS forms and registering so don’t assume the charity is not legitimate if the company is not included in these databases.

At the very least, ask the organization how it spends its money and be leery of organizations that spend a significant amount of its revenue on fundraising rather than the mission of the organization.

Giving Tuesday is all about charitable giving

During the holidays, we have Grey Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Most of these days are about you, the shopper.

So charities created Giving Tuesday which shifts the focus toward charities that need help during the holiday season.

Think about someone else during the holidays. There are so many people in need, and some companies will match your gift especially if it’s for an educational program.

Just make sure your money is going to a non-profit or charity who invests in its mission rather than paying handsome sums of money to its directors and officers.