holiday season beckons us to show others extra-special
kindness, especially when it comes to organizations that
help the less fortunate.
can tell by the appeals from charities in your mailbox.
The sheer volume received around Christmas means that
consumers have to figure out how to divvy up their
limited charity dollars.
itís because this season evokes emotion that you canít
let down your guard when it comes to those who tug at
your heartstrings for your charitable donations.
do appeals increase at year-end? According to the
nonprofit Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities,
itís because the year-end holidays are a time "of
religious and moral reflection" that inspires many
people to reach out to those who are less fortunate.
most charities do good work and channel their funds
toward helping others, youíve got to be careful of
those masquerading as charities whose only aim is to
take advantage of you.
with legitimate charities, you have to ensure that their
work matches what you want to accomplish with your
are some tips:
your philanthropic passions. According to Charity
Navigator, there are about 1 million charities in the
U.S. The group urges people not to settle for an
organization that isnít a match for their beliefs and
goals. "Take the time to find it and confirm ó
not just assume ó it offers the programs and services
that match your charitable interests," Charity
the charity is efficient, ethical and effective. Before
you give to any charity this holiday season, be sure to
check the charityís fiscal health, Charity Navigator
to the nonprofit, "Financially healthy
organizations ó those that are both financially
efficient and sustainable ó have greater flexibility
and freedom to pursue their charitable mission."
critical document to review is the organizationís Form
990, which most federally tax-exempt organizations must
file with the IRS each year. It provides information on
the organizationís mission, programs, and finances.
the Form 990, first look on Page 2, where the charity
describes its Program Service Accomplishments.
can give a donor (an idea of) how the charity allocates
its efforts and expenditures among its main
programs," said Michelle Monse, president of the
Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation in Dallas, a
go to Page 10, Part IX, for the Statement of Functional
are supposed to break down their total expenses by the
portions devoted to program services,
management/general, and fundraising," Monse said.
"You have to look at line 25 and do your own math
to get the ratios."
should expect the bulk of their money to go toward
actual charitable activities, rather than to fundraising
and administrative costs.
you must be realistic, Charity Navigator says.
that 100 percent of your gift cannot go toward the
charityís programs," the group says. For example,
each charity must pay for basic infrastructure costs
such as postage, utility and insurance expenses.
group urges people to instead donate to "efficient
charities" that spend at least 75 percent of their
budget on programs and services, 15 percent on
administration and 10 percent on fundraising.
all, the charityís ability to bring about long-lasting
and meaningful change in the world is the key reason for
their existence and for your donation," Charity
A GLANCE: Form 990
federally tax- exempt organizations must file Form 990
with the IRS each year. It provides information on the
organizationís mission, programs, and finances.
every charity is required to file a Form 990. Churches,
state institutions and nonprofits that havenít
received tax-exempt status from the IRS donít have to
organization that files a Form 990 is required by law to
let you view the document.
can also find Form 990s at charitynavigator.org and
guidestar.org. GuideStar is a nonprofit organization
that collects and organizes information on charities.