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How to Give Wisely

Non-profit organizations devoted to help service members and veterans are on the rise, all claiming to do great things. But do they? How are the funds they receive used? Are you really helping our military members, or are you just throwing away your hard-earned money?

Donations to all non-profit organizations, military or civilian, need to be made after “a grain of salt” and some due diligence on your part. Scams abound on the internet (Nigerian lottery, anyone?), preying on the sympathy of a civilian populace wanting to assist their military. And even if a non-profit is legitimate, is it reputable? Does it spend 10% on administrative costs with 90% going to the cause, or vice versa? More often then we’d like to think, they’re not. So what to do?

Website Veracity

Does this website seem professionally made? It doesn’t need to have all the “bells and whistles” of sound, slide shows, and all the other fancy computer stuff, but look at the basics. Are the words spelled correctly? Do the sentences make sense? If there are links, do they actually go anywhere? A website should be well organized, easy to navigate, neat, and appealing to the eye. Contact information outside of the website should be given; if not, big red flag.

Google It

When you google the website name, it should pop up at least on the first page (gotta love those marketing ads.)  What else comes up with the search-complaints, problems, investigations? Then google the website with those words; complaints, problems, investigations (and any other synonym you can think of). If any pop up, read up on it. It may be sour grapes, but more than likely it’s a real issue.

Charity Watch/American Institute of Philanthropy

Charity Watch, formerly known as the American Institute of Philanthropy, is a non-profit watchdog group that maintains a rating system on American non-profit organizations. It audits the finances of non-profits who have agreed to give full and unfettered access to all accounting, it charges no fee, and refuses to take donations of any kind from those groups. It teases out information that may be hidden from public view or manipulated in such a way as to prove what the charity claims, then either refutes or proves it. Charity Watch then publishes all information found, either positive or negative. With 20 years experience under its belt, the ethics and integrity of this group is well known and well earned.

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator also audits non-profit organizations that give them complete access to their financial records. Like Charity Watch, this audit is free of charge to the organization and Charity Navigator will not accept donations from these companies. However, there have been questions of the rating system and whom it audits. Most rated charities are large to extremely large national and international non-profits; small and local non-profits are the exception, not the rule. It allegedly links itself with news organizations such as CNN, leading to questions of media hounding and bias. Take these factors into account when looking up your charity; it might not be rated because it won’t help put Charity Navigator in the global spotlight.

Just like every other purchase, caveat emptor; buyer beware. You want to make sure that your money actually goes where it says it goes. If not, move on and find a more reputable organization that is truly helping our service members and veterans.

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