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5 Quick Tips for Donating Safely to Charity This Christmas

It’s coming up to Christmas and you would like to give something back to society by donating to charity. A truly noble and welcome gesture but, for many, it’s one that presents challenges. The array and number of organizations and causes can be overwhelming and raises a number of questions: Which organization should you support? How do you decide what cause to give to? How do you know that the organization you choose is honest and responsible? Will your donation go where it’s supposed to go? What percentage of your donation will be spent directly on projects?
To spare you time-consuming research in the busy Christmas run-up, here’s a checklist with 5 quick tips to help you donate safely this year:
Tip 1: Find a charity cause that’s personal to you
Do you want to help the environment, champion sustainable children’s educational initiatives in Africa or perhaps fund life-saving medical research? Most of us have a cause that is close to our hearts, an issue that reflects our life values or passions or experience. So start here with your research. Think about where you would like to make a difference and then, create a shortlist of 2 or 3 organizations that best fit your cause of choice.
Tip 2: Ensure your charity of choice is trustworthy and recognized
If you don’t know the organization personally, then how can you be sure that it’s not fake or that your donation will get where it’s supposed to go? The DZI (German Donation Seal) from the German Central Institute for Social Issues is a good indication of whether an organization is credible or not. The Institute was established with the aim of protecting German donors and donations. The governing board is comprised of members of the founding institutions, including a German federal ministry. The Institute awards its highly respected DZI seal of approval to authentic, non-profit organizations that fulfil strict criteria dealing with the legal, efficient and proper use of donations. If you find the DZI seal on a charity’s website, it‘s a good indication that the organization is legitimate. You can also independently verify the organization by checking to see if they are on the database on the DZI‘s own website.
Tip 3: Verify transparency with official reports and independent audits
An honest charity organization has nothing to hide and acts transparently, communicating openly and providing information on how it operates and how it spends. For example, does your choice disclose its financial statements? Does it publish annual reports and official meetings protocols? Look for these practices to verify transparency. These reports provide an in-depth picture of what is happening behind the scenes, what work is being done, how the charity organization is financed and how donations are being spent. The names of independent auditors on financial reports such as a tax accountant also underscore credibility. These reports should easily be located on the organization’s website.
Tip 4: Research the organization for credible reference partners
A quick check to see who else backs the organization will give you an indication as to whether it is reliable or not. Is it supported by partners from business, academia or government? Does it work with a network of experts in its field or a well-known ambassador? Are there reference partners who have been involved with the organization for many years? LinkedIn or Facebook profiles and their news feeds can also be very revealing as you can see who follows the organization, who is commenting and liking posts and what people are saying about the organization.
Tip 5: Find out where your donation is going and how much of it is being spent on projects and programs
An honest organization will provide detailed information on their projects and programs. Check the website and social media channels for updates and photos. Annual reports are an excellent source of program data, spending and outcomes. If an organization has the aforementioned DZI seal, it means that it adheres to a criterion limiting fundraising costs to 30%, in which case 70% of income is being spent directly on programs. This figure is, however, very much the upper limit. Most credible organizations try to stay around the 20% mark for administration and marketing costs. For example, CharityWatch, a US-based independent charity watchdog, awards charities with grades A to F based on how efficiently they spend resources. A charity is considered highly efficient, or grade A, if 75% or more is used for programs.
We hope these tips help you to make a safe giving decision this Christmas. This is a welcome time of year when, hopefully, we can slow down, be with family and friends, and also do something kind for someone else.
Thank you for your loving support, stay healthy and happy Christmas to you and yours.
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