If you’re like many people who establish a donor-advised fund for philanthropic giving, you probably already have a passion for certain causes. Often, individuals and families set up donor-advised funds out of a strong desire to share their blessings and make positive change in the world.
Many donors have given to charities on an individual basis for many years. These individuals already have a strong connection to a number of charitable organizations and, thus, have confidence that the charities will put their gifts to the best use.
That said, other donors may not know how to find and evaluate charities that align with their family values and will use their generous donations in the best way possible. If you’re in this group, you can use online sites, such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator in your research. While these sites may provide a good starting point to come up with an initial list, you might find these tips helpful when vetting your list:
Mission. Check out the charity’s official mission statement and decide if it aligns with your values and philanthropic purpose.
Outcomes. Has the charity made a visible impact on the cause it supports? Do they have metrics in place that can quantify their success over time?
Financials. Review the charity’s financial information. Is it recent and complete? Some experts suggest looking for an organization that spends less than 30% of its total costs on administration and fundraising.
Meet and greet. If your donations will be significant, it’s a good idea to talk with or meet the charity’s leadership and understand how their priorities change over time.
Supporters. Who are the main supporters of the charity? Are there only a few or are there many? How long have these key supporters been involved? Do you know any of them?
Volunteer. If possible, volunteer for the charity to get a better understanding of how they work and the organization’s culture. For charities that aren’t local, you can look for them on the various social media platforms and see if you can connect with people who have volunteered with them. You can ask them about their experiences.
Family. Keep your family members involved in the evaluation process at all stages. They can offer valuable insight about the evaluation process, especially if you have members from younger generations. Getting everyone involved will generate excitement as you move forward.
One reason donor advised funds are so appealing is that donors can separate the timing of their tax decision from the timing of making grants. This allows time for donors to carefully consider the effectiveness of charities they support before granting more.
It’s important that you discuss your philanthropic giving plan with your financial and other trusted advisors. These professionals can help you determine which assets will both minimize your tax burden and serve the greatest benefit to the charities that receive your gifts.
Once you’ve chosen which charities to support through this evaluation process, you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment. You and your family can give with confidence, knowing that your gifts will have a significant impact on the causes most important to you.