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Choosing the right non-profit for your holiday gift

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Photo above: Familiar faces at The Beaufort Fund Grant Reception, February 6th, 2015.

By Gloria Duryea

#GivingTuesday has come and gone, but it’s not too late to support nonprofits before the year is up. In fact, many nonprofits depend on it. Upwards of 40 percent of all individual donations are made in December.

We’re in the business of philanthropy, so it’s always giving season at Coastal Community Foundation. With donor surveys showing that two-thirds of individuals do not research nonprofits before making their donation, we want to share what we know about charity to give your dollars the most impact this season.

Mission 

Every nonprofit has a mission, and sticking to it is a strong indicator of organizational focus, responsibility and ability to create lasting change. Nonprofits use their mission to guide decision making and focus impact, so a clear mission statement is a must.

People 

Human capital is every nonprofit’s most important resource. This includes everyone from staff to board members and other volunteers. Organizations need to commit to their people, but just as important are the people’s commitment to the organization. Some important indicators are the level of board giving and leadership.

Inclusion 

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are critical to the long-term health of any organization, especially purpose-driven ones like nonprofits. While successful DEI might vary across programs and issues, all nonprofits can strive towards more equitable and inclusive internal environments with staff, board and volunteers. It is especially key to include communities served in internal
decision making.

Sustainability 

Is the organization planning for the future financially? Do they have a diversified revenue stream? Are they reaching out to current and potential donors online? Nonprofits planning for the future, and all of the changes that entails, will be ready to manage your contributions responsibly.

Programmatic Success 

Measuring what matters is different for every nonprofit, but every nonprofit should know that measurement and be able to readily share it with you. The most important thing to see is the nonprofit making strides towards more and more rigorous evaluation techniques that reach the heart of what matters for their mission.

Collaboration 

Is the nonprofit in question collaborating with their peers? Working together gives nonprofits a more holistic perspective about the communities they serve. It helps them advocate for their cause, think of new ideas and strengthen community leadership. Perhaps most importantly, it speaks to an organization’s commitment to the cause – not just themselves.

Online Tools 

Finally, there are a plethora of online tools available to access basic information about all nonprofits, especially financial details. Guidestar is one very comprehensive database, and IRS Select Check is a simple tool to determine an organization’s nonprofit status. For South Carolina, make sure they are in good standing with the S.C. Secretary of State as well.

Ultimately, one of the most effective ways to decide which nonprofits to support is to build relationships with them. In doing so, you can ask all of your questions and truly understand where they need your support.

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