4 Ways to be a Smart Giver

This blog was originally posted on givemn.org in preparation for Give to the Max Day 2013

Smart giving is a partnership between donors and nonprofits – a blend of art and science. Smart givers believe their time, talent and treasure are important social investments. People give for all kinds of reasons, and there is no wrong way to do it. But by using your heart, your head, and these four tips, you can help make sure your giving has the greatest impact this November.

1. Choose a critical problem to solve and look for organizations that tackle that problem

Instead of focusing on a specific organization, start by asking which problems facing your community list of strong nonprofits that meet 27 Accountability Standards® at smartgivers.org, look for organizations that want to solve the same problem that you do. These organizations have committed themselves to working hard to build a firm and solid foundation that includes accountability, transparency, good governance and public disclosure; that foundation allows them to focus on advancing their missions.

2. Research how the organization will use your donation

It’s easy to find information on an organization’s mission, financial health, and impact online, using resources such as Charities Review Council’s list of charities meeting standards, as well as national resources like Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and Better Business Bureau. It is important to look for measures of performance beyond administrative expenses, or “overhead.” An organization that invests in training, planning, evaluation, and internal systems is a stronger organization that can ultimately have the greatest impact on its community. Look for indicators of an organization’s performance such as transparency, governance, leadership, and results. If you have questions or don’t find what you’re looking for, ask! Strong nonprofits always welcome all questions from donors.

3. Does the organization strive to reflect its community?

An organization that reflects the community it serves is one that includes its constituents at all levels: on the board, on staff and in its volunteer workforce. Organizations who are led by and for stakeholder groups often have stronger social capital and healthier ties to that community. That means they’ll have strong outcomes in their work.

4. Look for risk-taking and out-of-the-box solutions

Nonprofits today are tasked with a huge challenge: serve more people with less money. Smart givers should invest their dollars into charities that innovate to work around those challenges. The willingness to take creative risks is key to finding new solutions to the problems we’ve faced since the dawn of humanity. It’s up to this generation of donors to change the world, for good.

Want to learn more about the work we do at Charities Review Council? Come to our SmartGiving Open House on Thursday, November 7, 2013, from 3:30 to 7 pm. We invite you to tour our new collaborative workspace, learn more about our work and renewed focus, eat some delicious appetizers, and have a good time with us as we debut our new home along the Green Line in nonprofit alley!

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