Evaluating Nonprofits – What to Look For

Evaluating Nonprofits – What to Look For

Your philanthropy is a reflection of your personal values and reinforces your goals and priorities for the wider community. To ensure your donations are making the most impact, it’s helpful to become familiar with causes before making a gift.

Evaluating organizations can provide you with inspiring insights as well as practical information. GuideStar and Charity Navigator are two national search engines that guide donors in their review of nonprofits.

Once you have narrowed your search, the author of “Debating Effective Philanthropy” and public administration professor David Campbell advises donors to consider an organization’s performance, its stakeholders’ experience, and how it is addressing community issues.

But how does one research such information?

Indirect Research

There are many vehicles to access information about a nonprofit. With over 40 years of community knowledge and nonprofit partnerships, The San Diego Foundation is a great resource.

In today’s digital age, you can also visit an organization’s website, read through the digital 990 form, “Like” its Facebook page, and/or “Follow” its Twitter account, for example.

Below are questions and content to consider as you monitor electronic information channels.

  • Does the website clearly describe the organization’s mission, background, leadership team, and program achievements? Is the annual report available for download, including financials?
  • Does the Facebook page help you better understand the nonprofit’s work, clients served, and/or sector? Is the content engaging and updated on a consistent basis? Does the messaging resonate with you personally?
  • Does the Twitter feed enable you to learn more about the nonprofit’s work? Do its “tweets” help inform your thinking around a particular issue or topic related to the group’s mission?

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Direct Research

Occasionally, you might find it valuable to experience a specific program in person, tour a new facility or meet with program staff before a giving decision. The Foundation can facilitate setting up a meeting or site visit on your behalf.

Below are some key concepts to consider during personal visits with nonprofit representatives.

  • Does advance coordination of the meeting set the tone for visit objectives, so those involved have a clear understanding of the agenda and desired outcomes?
  • During the visit, does staff take the time to understand your giving priorities? Do they establish a connection between their work and your interests?
  • Does the organization present information that establishes a clear “case for support”, outlining how resources are used in pursuit of its mission? Do you trust that the nonprofit can deliver on this plan?

Joyful Giving

Nonprofit organizations are deeply passionate and committed to their work. They put in very long hours to bring much-needed services and programs to our community.

When you feel confident that the programs, operations and leadership of a particular cause are worthy of your philanthropic support, give freely. The organization then has a responsibility to deploy your generosity wisely, and report back how the gift made a difference.

If the organization meets or exceeds your expectations with its positive community impact, be sure to give again – and spread the word!

Please contact The San Diego Foundation to learn more about how we can help you refine your giving priorities for more focused philanthropy and increased community impact.

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