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Give & Take: Choosing a Charity – Find the Right Fit

Laura Bernstein

Last month, a team of Prosekians participated in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk with two employees championing the company’s efforts. Through Prosek’s Give Back program, the team rallied the troops to walk and raised funds online and through an office happy hour.

The Give Back program is dedicated to amplifying the causes that are most important to each employee. However, for some, it can be difficult to decide what causes are most important to them. With so many good causes to choose from, below are a few ways to find the right fit for you:

Find a cause that aligns with your values: The first step in choosing the right charity for you is to examine which of your values you’d like the organization to reflect. Begin by narrowing down the category – human rights, education, poverty, healthcare, animal welfare and so on. From here, look into how the charity specifically serves that population. A good place to start is its mission statement and overview of its key programs. You should also look into its achievements and success stories.

Determine the purpose you want your time and treasure to serve: Whether you are volunteering or making a donation, your contributions are valuable and you should know where they’re being used. Are you looking for a charity that’s working to provide jobs for women in developing countries? Or, do you want an organization that will clean up your neighborhood parks to keep them safe for local kids? Where the charity does its work can help determine your choice. Overall, their efforts have meaningful impact, so it’s really a matter of personal preference whether you want to take a global stance or prefer a community approach.

You can also think about what the charity provides for the population it is serving. Are they doing research to cure a disease? Or, are they providing after-school programs for kids? A great way to get familiar with its work is to volunteer with the organization. This way you can ask its employees your questions in person or speak to those the charity serves directly.

Verify the charity’s credibility: While contributing to a charity has become simpler, it has unfortunately also become easier to set up fake organizations or garner donations for organizations that are run poorly. It’s very important to ensure that the charity you choose is meeting the legal and moral standards you expect. In terms of legal standing, you can easily check an organization’s federal tax status. The IRS provides the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool which allows you to search for organizations and see whether or not they are tax exempt and find information on their filings.

You can also take a deeper dive into a charity’s inner workings by checking Charity Navigator. The site provides information on financials, transparency, revenue and expenses, similar charities and even CEO salaries. GuideStar also provides a comprehensive overview of the organization along with its program results and details on operations.

Taking some time to find the charity that is the right fit for you will ensure you have a great experience supporting the organization you choose. My personal charity of choice is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude leads the way for the world in how to understand, treat and defeat childhood cancer and other deadly diseases. It freely shares its research with hospitals all over the world increasing survival rates globally. Most importantly, families never receive a bill from St. Jude, and with 81 cents of every dollar going straight to research and treatment, I know my contributions make a difference.   

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