Charity for our Children


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Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors (from


Charity Navigator

1. Be Proactive In Your Giving
Smart givers generally don't give reactively in a knee-jerk reaction. They don't respond to the first organization that appeals for help. They take the time to identify which causes are most important to them and their families. And they are specific about the change they want to affect. For example, they don't just support generic cancer charities, but instead have targeted outcome goals for their giving, such as providing mammograms to at-risk women in their community.

2. Hang Up The Phone / Eliminate The Middleman
Informed donors recognize that for-profit fundraisers, those primarily used in charitable telemarketing campaigns, keep 25 to 95 cents of every dollar they collect. These donors never give out their personal information - like credit card accounts, social security numbers - over the phone. If they like what they hear in the pitch, they'll hang up, investigate the charity on-line and send their contribution directly to the charity, thereby cutting out the middleman and ensuring 100% of their donation reaches the charity. To help you investigate charities that solicit you, we include each charity's contact information in the bottom right-hand corner of its ratings page.

3. Be Careful Of Sound-Alike Names
Uninformed donors are easily confused by charities that have strikingly similar names to others. How many of us could tell the difference between an appeal from the Children's Charity Fund and the Children's Defense Fund? Their names sound the same, but their performances are vastly different. Would you be surprised to learn that the Children's Charity Fund is a 0-star charity while the Children's Defense Fund is a 4-star charity? Informed donors take the time to uncover the difference.

4. Confirm 501(c) (3) Status
Wise donors don't drop money into canisters at the checkout counter or hand over cash to solicitors outside the supermarket. Situations like these are irresistible to scam artists who wish to take advantage of your goodwill. If for no other reason than they want to take the tax deduction, smart givers only support groups granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator meet this basic requirement.

5. Check The Charity's Commitment To Donor's Rights
Giving to charity shouldn't be a one-sided relationship. It should work more like a partnership. Smart donors seek out charities that want partners and not merely donors by checking if the charity has a donor privacy policy whereby the organization promises to never sell or trade the donor's contact information. Furthermore, smart donors know that in the majority of cases the onus is on the donor to 'opt-out' of having their personal information shared with other entities. To save you time, our financial ratings include an assessment of each charity's commitment to donor's rights.

6. Obtain Copies Of Its Financial Records
Savvy donors know that the financial health of a charity is a strong indicator of the charity's programmatic performance. They know that the most efficient charities spend at least 75% of their budget on their programs and services and less than 25% on fundraising and administrative fees. They understand that a charity's ability to sustain its programs over time is just as important as its short-term day-to-day spending practices. Therefore, savvy donors also seek out charities that are able to grow their revenue at least at the rate of inflation, that continue to invest in their programs and that have some money saved for a rainy day. All of this analysis is provided on Charity Navigator's website for free, but when considering groups not found here, savvy donors ask the charity for copies of its three most recently Forms 990. Not only can the donor examine the charity's finances, but the charity's willingness to send the documents is a good way to assess its commitment to transparency.

7. Review Executive Compensation
Sophisticated donors realize that charities need to pay their top leaders a competitive salary in order to attract and retain the kind of talent needed to run a multi-million dollar organization and produce results. But they also don't just take the CEO's compensation at face value; they benchmark it against similar-sized organizations engaged in similar work and located in the same region of the country. To help you make your own decision, Charity Navigator reveals that the average CEO's compensation of the charities we evaluate is roughly $150,000. In general, salaries tend to be higher in the northeast and at arts and education charities. Sophisticated donors also put the CEO's salary into context by examining the overall performance of the organization. They know it is better to contribute to a charity with a well-paid CEO that is meeting its goals than to support a charity with an underpaid CEO that fails to deliver on its promises.

8. Start A Dialogue To Investigate Its Programmatic Results
Although it takes some effort on their part to assess a charity's programmatic impact, donors who are committed to advancing real change believe that it is worth their time. Before they make a contribution, they talk with the charity to learn about its accomplishments, goals and challenges. These donors are prepared to walk away from any charity that is unable or unwilling to participate in this type of conversation.

9. Concentrate Your Giving
When it comes to financial investments, diversification is the key to reducing risk. The opposite is true for philanthropic investments. If you've really taken the time to identify a well-run charity that is engaged in a cause that you are passionate about, you should then feel confident in giving it a donation. Spreading your money among multiple organizations not only results in your mail box filling up with more appeals, it also diminishes the possibility of any of those groups bringing about substantive change as each charity is wasting a large percentage of your gift on fundraising and overhead expenses.

10. Share Your Intentions And Make A Long-Term Commitment
Smart donors support their favorite charities for the long haul. Again, they see themselves as a partner in the charity's efforts to bring about change. They know that only with long-term, committed supporters can a charity be successful. And they don't hesitate to tell the charity of their giving plans so that the organization knows it can rely on the donor and the charity doesn't have to waste resources and harass the donor by sending numerous solicitations.


6 Questions To Ask Charities Before Donating (from



1. Can your charity clearly communicate who they are and what they do?
If a charity struggles in articulating its mission and its programs, it will probably struggle in delivering those programs. Organizations that can explain who they are and what they're trying to accomplish have a singularity of purpose and a commitment to focused institutional change. The boom and bust showed that for-profit companies that couldn't articulate exactly what purpose they served and what product they delivered couldn't compete with bricks and mortar businesses with clear visions of who they were, and what they did. Charities are no different. If a charity can't explain who it is and what it does, and why it is needed, find one that can. The stakes are too high and too many good organizations exist who know exactly who they are, what they do, and why they are needed.

2. Can your charity define their short-term and long-term goals?
Organizations without quantifiable goals have no way to measure success. If they have no way to know if they are successful, how can you be sure they are working toward something? Demand that your charity tell you what it is trying to do. Good organizations relish this opportunity. They know what they are working toward today and tomorrow.

3. Can your charity tell you the progress it has made (or is making) toward its goal?
Once again, it's not enough to merely be concerned with a problem. Good intentions are no longer sufficient to warrant your charitable support. The marketplace is too crowded. Ask your organization what it has done to make the issue it confronts better. What are its results? You wouldn't buy a brand of toothpaste if the manufacturer couldn't prove to you that it fought cavities successfully. Why should you support an environmental clean-up organization if it can't show you that it is cleaning up the environment?

4. Do your charity's programs make sense to you?
If you support the mission of an organization, ask yourself if its programs also make sense. You believe in the cause, and you hope for the end result, but is the organization working toward that result in a way that seems rational and productive to you? If an organization's goal is to promote kindness toward animals, does it pursue its goal in a way that makes sense to you, or does it merely inflame the issue? Do you want your research organizations doing advocacy? Do you want your outreach organizations making policy, or your policy organizations doing outreach? Maybe you do, maybe you don't. This doesn't mean that every organization should be singular in focus. It also doesn't mean, however, that you have to support every organization that has the same belief system as you. Just because you support the ends, you may not support the means. If you know you want to support the outcome the charity aims to deliver, ask yourself if its method of arriving at that outcome makes sense to you.

5. Can you trust your charity?
Our research has shown that the overwhelming majority of charities in this country are not only responsible and honest, but well-managed. So we give with confidence. You should feel the same way before you give. Don't support a charity until you feel comfortable with it. A guilty and distrustful giver is a one-time giver. To gain this trust, use Charity Navigator, or another unbiased source. If you have time, check with the IRS or your state attorney general's office. Call the President of the organization, and ask the questions you need answered before you can be assured this is a good use of your money. Ask for an annual report. Do whatever it takes to put your mind at ease. Use your rights to gather data so that you will be comfortable. Good charities will encourage this. A happy and trusting donor is a willing and supportive donor.

6. Are you willing to make a long-term commitment to your organization?
We like to think of giving to charity as a long-term commitment, more akin to marriage than dating. Intelligent giving is motivated by altruism, knowledge, and perspective, not a knee-jerk reaction to a television commercial. You are an adult. You have a budget. You have the means to help others. You want to help. Ask yourself if your charity is the type of organization to which you're willing to make a long-term commitment. When you do this, you agree to support them through good times and bad, and provide the funding it needs to weather economic downturns. In return, it promises to continue working toward addressing the issue you both think is so vital. Look hard and find an organization you can support for many years to come. When you find that charity, give it your dollars, tell it you'll be there through thick and thin, and then continue to support it. Only then will long-term sustainable change take place.


>>Go to Charity Navigator for more tips on donating


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