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Dial-A-Prayer Home Page | Articles | Tips on Giving to Charities and Organizations
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Tips on Giving to Charities and Organizations

Financial accountability should be of interest to anyone giving to religious or charity organizations. Dial-A-Prayer.com wants to encourage you to not only tithe to your local church but give to other worthy causes as God directs you.

Unfortunately, there are an appalling number of charities, companies, organizations and religious non-profit organizations greedily profiting by fund raising in the name of the needy or a Cause-Of-The-Day. They take 30-50-95% of what is raised and pay themselves lavishly rather than maximizing the amount they raise for the goal. In addition, it is also appalling how many people ignore all obligations to the poor, the needy, their family, friends, God, church and community involvement.

To maximize your giving, give through organizations that keep administration and fund raising costs low and see to it that every penny is spent wisely toward the stated goal. Also review the impact or accomplishments of the ministry. Both short term and long term.

Some have said that a non-profit organization or organization raising money for a charity, legally only has to send just 5 percent of what is raised toward what it was originally raised for. The rest can be used towards the cost of raising the funds. Laws may or may not have changed since then but it is clear that it is important to find out where donations ultimately are sent. Do this by asking questions and reading audited information about where the money goes before donating.

Remember, the Internet makes it easy and cheap to make available financial information about the charity. Therefore, we recommend that if an organization avoids showing their data then consider shying away from giving to the organization. If they give an excuse such as, "we are working on it", or "we are supposed to be updating our web site", or "nobody has ever asked about that before" then you should consider not giving.

Hundreds of pages of financial accountability documents as well as, pictures, video, board member testimonials and quotes can easily be posted via the Internet by someone with only a grade school education. Therefore, we think you should be very suspicious of organizations that do not do an adequate job in this area, or post only a small pie chart and call that more than enough information.. Dial-a-Prayer encourages you to check out charities and organizations before you give.

Ask questions! Find out how much of your donation actually reaches the place you were led to believe it would reach. Regardless of whether you receive an appeal on the street corner, at a mall, in the mail, by phone, radio, tv appeal for any charity, you should know generally where the money goes before giving it.

The same is true about donations to various churches. Take the time to inform yourself about how your church audits itself. Go to church business meetings, ask questions. Does your church or favorite religious organization make a reasonable effort to track its income and expenditures and report with generally accepted accounting principles? Are they being good stewards with the assets? Or do they squander the money, pay themselves lavishly without outside oversight or not pay their bills within a reasonable time? Are they a member of the ECFA or some other accountability organization? If not, why not?

Be wise with your donations; the next time you are caught off guard and asked or even pressured to give to a charity you know little or nothing about tell them: "I want to review your organization and find out where the money goes. I can't even consider donating until I review your audited financial information. Can someone mail / email me this information, direct me to a web site where you provide it? What percentage of my donation goes toward fund raising costs and administration?" Be wise, if they don't know or can't give you this information, then you likely have your answer as to whether they are suspicious or not.

In many cases, churches and religious organizations are the most efficient in funneling cash and material (food, clothing etc.) to the needy and various causes. Take this into account when trying to funnel the highest percentage of your giving to the needy. However, do your homework first to know how efficient the organization is before giving through them and ensure the money that you give is on their books by getting a receipt. Remember, Jesus said "You shall know them by their fruits." So, look up their information and find out first if they squander the money they raise or don't allow anyone to analyze their books.

Not only should we give but we should give cheerfully. The Bible says: "God loves a cheerful giver."
"Love your Neighbor as yourself"
However the Bible tells us to "be wise" many times as well.

Give cheerfully, but research before giving.


Example of online financial documentation:
Habitat for Humanity has a beautiful page up clearly detailing income and expenses for 2002.
The pie charts and information are clearly displayed showing:
Fund raising expenses 25%,
Management and general staffing costs of 3%,
and public awareness costs of 7%. On the other hand their fund raising and other expenses for that year, at first glance at least, seems toward the high end of what Charity Watch.org would say is acceptable.
Regardless, someone wanting to give to a cause such as this can quickly determine the efficiency of the organization if the numbers are posted.


Charity Resources:



The following are some additional tips from CharityWatch.org

1. Know your charity. Charities have an obligation to provide detailed information to interested donors. Never give to a charity you know nothing about. Request written literature and a copy of the charity's latest annual report. This should include a list of the board of directors, a mission statement and the most recent available audited financial statements with accompanying notes. If a charity does not provide you with the information you request, you may want to think twice about giving to it. Honest charities typically encourage your interest and respond to your questions.

2. Find out where your dollars go. Ask how much of your donation goes for general administration and fundraising expenses and how much is left for the program services you want to support.

3. Remember: tax exempt does not always mean tax deductible.

4. Do not be misled by a charity's familiar name. Some questionable charities use an impressive name which closely resembles the name of a respected, legitimate organization...

5. Do not be enticed by emotional appeals. ...Question phone solicitors or direct mail appeals which tell you nothing of the charity or offer vague explanations for spending your charitable dollars.

6. Charities should spend no more than $35 to raise $100.

7. Give to newly created charities only if you have reliable third-party verification of their credibility and have knowledge of and trust the directors and officers of the new group. Do not assume that a claimed celebrity endorsement is real or that the celebrity has adequately scrutinized the charity.

8. Be cautious when giving to police and firefighter groups. Contact your local police or firefighters to find out if they are familiar with the group soliciting you. Some of these groups hire professional fundraising companies that may distribute a very small portion of the proceeds to charitable beneficiaries.

9. Beware of charities offering gifts. ... Charities do this because it can increase donations. But do not feel that you have to make a contribution to keep these gifts. ...

Read more at the CharityWatch.org web site.


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