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There are several resources for reviews on charities which can be used to determine whether or not a charity is a suitable recipient of donations of goods, services, or funds. Numerous agencies examine charities to look at how their funds are used, how efficiently they operate, and whether or not charitable organizations have received complaints. These reviews are freely accessible to members of the general public who wish to examine them.
If your nation has a Better Business Bureau or similar organization, it is often a good resource to start with when evaluating charities. Organizations which agree to participate in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) submit themselves to auditing, provide information about themselves, and provide an avenue for people who wish to compile complaints. The BBB may use grading or numerical ratings to indicate how trustworthy and efficient a charity is, and it also typically includes disclosures of financial organization, like what percentage of donations actually goes to the cause the charity supports.
Checking for government status as a recognized charity can also help, because this suggests that a charity submits paperwork for auditing by tax authorities and conforms with certain rules. However, being certified as a charity does not automatically make an organization reputable.
Private charity ratings organizations like Smart Givers, Charity Navigator, and the American Institute of Philanthropy also evaluate charities and rate them, using their own criteria. Reports from these organizations can be very trustworthy and informative, and these groups also review charities whether or not they submit themselves for rating, meaning that the pool of organizations reviewed is not self-selecting.
Another good source is a local newspaper or service organization. Newspapers often list charities they think are worthy or reputable around the holiday season to encourage people to donate, and their reporters may also periodically profile local organizations. Service organizations also provide reviews of charities and recommendations to members of the public who ask, as do many churches. Some churches or service organizations are officially affiliated with particular charities which are usually carefully vetted, and these organizations can be a good resource for information on good places to donate.
Information about charities can also be obtained from reputable nonprofit organizations. If a nonprofit organization will not offer specific recommendations because it wants to encourage people to donate to it, rather than to another group, potential donors can look at charities which the organization has been affiliated with. If Nonprofit A and Charity B have worked together on a project, chances are high that the nonprofit investigated the charity and determined that it was a worthy organization to work with, and therefore the charity is probably a good candidate for a donation.
Sometimes you can just look for charity reviews in general online and come up with people who have donated to or worked for a particular organization who have expressed their thoughts.
Always read a good many reviews before passing judgment. Read the negative and the positive, and see if the negative reviews are all saying the same thing, like complaining about a lack of transparency. A charity with problems will probably have trouble in the areas of bookkeeping. If you see the same issues cropping up over and over, then that charity should probably be avoided. They obviously have things they need to work out.
I think Charity Navigator has some of the most comprehensive, objective reviews. They have a list of criteria charities should meet and if a charity does not meet the standard, they don't get the ratings. They are reliable, too. I say this because they hold popular, "sexy" charities like PETA up to the same standard as less popular charities, and if the popular ones don't measure up, they are rated lower.
Charity Navigator also has a huge list of charities, so if you're looking for one to support, or you want to check one out, I recommend clearing through that organization.
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