Charitable Giving Tips for the Holidays – Charitable giving peaks during the holiday season, a time when many Americans love to be generous. But how do you know how your donations are being spent? Before making any donations this holiday season, donors should do their research to ensure they’re choosing wisely, and there are tools to help make informed decisions.
I interviewed Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief – one of the nation’s highest rated and most reputable NGOs. He shared his charitable giving tips.
Charitable Giving Tips for the Holidays
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – With so many charities out there, what can people do to make sure they select a good one? What are some decent charitable giving tips?
Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief – It’s a great question. I think the most important thing is where you start with is what you yourself care about. There’s so many compelling causes from Environmental to Arts programs to Animal Welfare to what Direct Relief does which is humanitarian medical assistance. I think that’s what’s really important and once you find that, then to look at an independent site to tell you if it’s a legitimate charity.. like CharityNavigator.org is probably the largest one and that’s independent. It can tell you about an organization’s use of your money and how it’s performed over time, it’s government practices… and I think that’s a really important filter to run these things through because there are so many good, compelling causes. Sometimes, unfortunately, something can be exploited so I think you want to pick what you care about and then do the homework to make sure it’s going to do the good you intend.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – How are charities rated and what do those ratings mean? Should people make their giving decisions on ratings alone?
Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief – Well, more good questions. Charities are rated typically with respect to how their finances are used. It’s very difficult to compare an arts organization to an advocacy organization about environmental causes or again a humanitarian organization like Direct Relief. But, what you can compare is how they use their money – how much they get, what they spend it on, the quality of the financial reporting… things that lend themselves to comparison just like companies of all different types can be compared on the basis of their finances. I think that is basically the mindset that has been brought to the Charity Navigator and other sites like Forbes Magazine or Forbes.com that actually does a similar rating or ranking for charities as well. I don’t think it makes sense to give a gift exclusively on that. As I said, that won’t tell you what you should care about or what you do care about. It can just tell you of the things you might care about… which is rated better based on the rating criteria, which tend to be basically financial in nature, and disclosure, and the accuracy and quality of the reporting, and the governance, which are important, but they can’t really tell you what you care about…
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – What have charities done to create a lack of trust in them? How can charities win back public trust?
Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief – Charitable organizations, like many other institutions, probably suffered a bit of a decline in how they’re perceived in the public. I think there’s an increasing skepticism brought on by circumstances and probably, unfortunately, specific examples where people have failed to meet the expectations of what was expected of them after a big high profile emergency, for example. I think that’s not exclusive to non-profits, I think it’s a more skeptical time. But, what non-profits can do is listen to the signal that’s coming from the public. If the signal is that “we want to know what you did with our money…we wanted to help and we’re kind of disappointed,” what I think the repsonse to that is, and certainly what we’re doing at Direct Relief, is not just providing the minimum amount of information, it’s providing as much is responsive and you think people will care about. Any organization or institution where there’s rising levels of skepticism, I think you have to address that by coming straight at it… particularly when in the case of non-profits, it’s very clear. It relates to how they’ve done with their money, whether the public representations have been consistent with actions that occurred. If it hasn’t been, stop doing it. If it’s a matter of just not providing enough information, that’s relatively easy to do. Direct Relief has seen repeatedly that the more information we provide… it tends to work and I think it rebuilds that kind of trust. I’m hopeful that that practice is something that other folks can learn from and adopt and I think that will go a long way in helping lift the reputation back if it sunk a bit.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Direct Relief has the unique perspective of working with local non-profit organizations in all 50 states and in 70 countries around the world, if you were to donate to a non-profit organization (not Direct Relief), how would you choose? Any other charitable giving tips?
Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief – Well, it’s a great question. I think I would follow my own advice. I would find the things that I personally care about – I happen to care about autism, it’s in my family, it’s affected me personally with my family and that’s something I care about. It means a lot to me. As does health services for people in the community in which I live. There’s a great non-profit health center that is in my home town. So, those things I know. With autism, there’s a lot of groups involved. I think to do the due diligence to see which group is going to do the best with my money…I think I’d try to follow my own advice. Figure out what I care about, and then make sure that before I make a contribution, that it’s going to do what I intend it to do by virtue of making my contribution. Basically, it’s not particularly fancy advice, but I hope it’s sound advice for Oakland County Moms, and its readers and viewers.
You can certainly visit DirectRelief.org to learn about what Direct Relief does and for more charitable giving tips. We do happen to get very good ratings on Charity Navigator, perfect ratings in fact. I hope your visitors and viewers can come check us out. Thank you.
For more info on Charitable Giving Tips for the Holidays, visit DirectRelief.org.