Blog #576 Charity Support

Charities – how to evaluate

There are so many great charities out there.  There are organizations where almost 100% of the contributions go to the charity and others where the organizations pay professional fundraisers up to 88% of the contributions.  

At my church yesterday there was a missionary organization promoting his organization.  It did sound real good. They also indicated that about 96% of the money given goes directly to those in need.

But,the organization was new to me.  Yes, their work was good; yes, they were improving the lives of poor people around the world.  But, I hadn’t thought of them before. There are great charities in my area – food banks, groups that can help those ‘down on their luck’ with help on utilities and other needs. I needed to reflect on whether it would a better use of our funds to support a very good international ministry organization with local organization.

Using the data from Charity Navigator, the Cancer Survivors’ Fund spends about 89% that goes to fundraising.  So, out of $100 you give to Cancer Survivors’ Fund, the organization puts about $8 dollars going to the receivers.

Now, with so many charities, how do you know which ones are good and which ones are maybe using “too much” of the contributions for overhead (such as fundraising expenses, officials salaries).  Now, let’s be honest – organizations do have overhead – offices, salaries, accounting expenses, mailing, and other. What is ‘reasonable’ in a salary?

There are other issues that can be tracks with Charity Navigator – like CEO and compensation.

This website also gives some tips for contributors:

-1 Be proactive in your giving.  Do you have special interest in particular areas?  Did one of your parents or close relatives die of cancer?  Do you want to want to support cancer research? My father had Alzheimer’s as did my mother-in-law.  

-2 Research organizations before giving.   I have checked out the various organizations that support Alzheimer’s research – and two are top rated.  There are scams that spell or change valid organizations names slightly different and piggy back on the real organization.  

The Federal Trade Commission (ftc) has this suggestion

“Here’s the rundown. After a hurricane hits, people rush to help those in need. If you are making a donation for hurricane relief, remember to give enough thought to where exactly you are sending your money. Because scammers are hoping that generous people like you, in your eagerness to help, won’t do your homework so they can steal that money.” (

-3 Long-lasting and real change.  Depending on the charity and the nature of the gift, some organizations (like Cancer Research and/or Alzheimer’s Research) are working towards finding solutions to those diseases.  For hurricane relief, it may go to governments helping rebuilt infrastructure (roads, telephone and communications, water and more). You can also look at specific hurricane relief, such as rebuilding schools or churches.

-4 Determine how to give – one-time gift, monthly gifts, check or credit card.  Maybe you can’t afford $1200 now, but you can afford $100 a month for a year.

-5 Follow your investment – your giving for at least six months.  Did the money go to those that needed the support? Was it a good investment in helping others and a good investment in your specific area of giving.  Was the organization diligent in keeping you informed (most will have newsletters and webpages)?

To finish, I would like to recommend one particular charity where 100% of the funds go directly to the recipient:  “The Bruce White Retirement Fund”. Yes, 100% of your gifts will go to me – to keep me solvent and flourishing in my senior years!!!  (Just kidding of course!!!)

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Posted by Bruce White

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