Protips on Making Your Donation Dollars Count.

Over the past few years, I've gotten a lot of questions about what nonprofits are best to support, including questions about administrative costs, giving locally versus nationally, and more. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Understand that charities have administrative costs. If an organization claims that 100% of your donation will go straight to survivors or resources, that's simply not true. And some organizations have very high administrative costs, which lowers your dollar's impact. That said, some administrative costs are good. It's important that nonprofits pay their workers a competitive salary and invest in their health and wellbeing. That's the sign of a sustainable organization with happy workers, not one with burnt out employees, high turnover, or unpaid interns. (Don't even get me started on unpaid internships...) 
  • Give locally, when possible. I'm not saying NOT to give to national organizations, but by giving to a local chapter or local nonprofit, you can have a more direct impact on your community. For example, I give to the Make-a-Wish Foundation - National Capital Region, rather than to the national organization, because I know this will have a huge impact on young people in my area. (Also, MAW - National Capital Region has some of the most wish requests because of the numerous hospitals here that treat children). I also regularly give to the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and New Endeavors by Women, a local group that works to empower women experiencing homelessness. 
  • ...Except when your dollars will be better served in another region. For example, if you live in a place with super progressive abortion laws (rare, these days!), you should give to your local abortion fund, as well as to a fund that is more likely to be struggling with local funding restrictions and laws. For example, this Giving Tuesday, I plan to give a few dollars to the Dr. Willie Parker Fund for Abortion Access in the South. Mississippi and Alabama have some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country (including twenty-four-hour waiting periods, parental consent laws, mandated counseling where physicians are required to lie to patients, bans on most Medicaid funding, and restrictions designed solely to shut down clinics), making it that much harder for patients to access the healthcare they need. Abortion funds in the region help bridge the gap between what patients can afford and the procedure, which is SO critical. 
  • Take a critical look at the financial stability. A thriving nonprofit has a mix of revenue streams: individuals (with large and small donations), foundations, events, online, direct mail, etc. Most of this information can be found on GuideStar, or on the nonprofit's website or annual reports.
  • Does it have a strong, focused mission, or does is it a bit muddled or buzzworthy? It's important that you can see what the mission of the organization is straight up: and it doesn't just go after the new shiny buzzword in funding.
  • Staff reflect the communities they serve. You know how on Insecure Issa is the token Black woman at a nonprofit dedicated to helping Black and Latino youth? That is just not okay, and is a reality for many nonprofits. Who knows better where to distribute funding and how to serve a community better than the community itself? We need to invest in these groups with our dollars and our time. The DC Abortion Fund and Collective Action for Safe Spaces are two of my favorites.

Any other tips? Include them in the comments. 

Claire S. GouldComment