As 2012 winds down and you begin thinking about year-end giving, here are some helpful guidelines provided by GuideStar:

How to Donate to the Right Nonprofit

  1. Clarify your beliefs and preference.

    • Do this before you open your checkbook, volunteer your time, or look at that letter from a charity.
    • Think
      about what matters most to you. The environment? Education? Hunger?
      Animal welfare? Helping sick children? Economic development?
    • Think about where you want to make an impact. In your neighborhood? Region? The nation? Internationally?
    • Ask yourself if you want to support a large or small charity, a new or an old one.
  2. Make sure mission aligns with your vision.

    • Look at a charity's description on GuideStar, on its Web site, in its literature, or on Charting Impact.
  3. Verify the charity's legitimacy.

    • Look the nonprofit up on GuideStar to ensure that it is a legitimate tax-exempt organization in good standing with the IRS.
  4. Do your research.

    • Look
      for clear descriptions of a charity's mission and programs, goals, and
      achievements. Are the goals measurable? Does the charity use concrete
      terms to describe its accomplishments?
    • If you compare charties,
      be you compare apples to apples. Compare charities that do the same kind
      of work, especially if you're looking at their finances. The type of
      work a charity does can affect its operating costs dramatically.
    • Avoid
      charities that won't share information or pressure you. Reputable
      nonprofits will discuss their programs and finances, don't use pressure
      tactics, are willing to send you literature about their work or direct
      you to a Web site, and will take "no" for an answer.
  5. Trust your instincts.

    you still have doubts about a charity, don't contribute to it. Instead,
    find another nonprofit that does the same kind of work and with which
    you feel comfortable, then make your donation.

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