Knowledge Base

As a donor, what should I look for when giving?

As a donor, what should I look for when giving?

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What to consider

If you are an individual, corporation, or foundation looking to be a good steward of resources you will need to do your due diligence before giving. It’s important to ensure your money is improving lives of children and families. Here are some ways to start asking questions about the work an organization is doing. 

    Programming and staffing concerns

    Take time to get to know the organization you are supporting and what they value. Whatever they value and have defined as success, they will work towards. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you determine concerns within programs.

    • What are the organization’s programs?
    • What outcomes are they hoping to see from the work they do? How have they defined success?
    • Are they focused on preserving families?
    • What do they do to keep families together?
    • If they provide residential care, how long is the child in care for? What gatekeeping mechanisms or criteria do they use?
    • Are children reintegrated with their family?
    • Do they have and actively use a case management system?
    • What does the organization do to support and empower parents or caretakers?
    • How many children are in their programs?
    • How many staff? Child to staff ratio?
    • Do they demonstrate expertise in social work? Look for social workers, therapists, case managers, community development specialists, family strengthening specialists, etc.
    • Many organizations have staff members that lack the necessary professional training to serve children and families effectively. It’s important to find organizations who invest in their staff’s capacity, professional development, and higher education.

    Child protection and ethical storytelling concerns

    Identifying information listed publicly
    Identifying information lies at the core of many of these concerns. Information that could lead you to finding a child is concerning and should never be listed publicly. Organizations should be upholding child protection practices and among those is confidentiality and protecting the children. The following children’s information should never be accessible by website viewers or provided to donors.
    • Full names
    • Identification numbers
    • Addresses- either living or school attending
    • School reports with identifying information
    • Photos with identifying clothing, signs, etc.
    • Detailed descriptions of a child or family’s life story

    The way we talk about people says a lot about how we see them and how much we value them. Try to understand the story they are telling. 

    • How are children and families portrayed in media and storytelling? Is there dignity, respect, and honor?
    • Are children and families protected in communications?
    • Do their stories remain confidential?
    • Is the organization changing names for stories?

    Governance and financial concerns

    One of the many reasons that organizations can run into challenges is lack of governance and accountability. There are many organizations where you will find little to no true oversight happening. Some organizations lack boards all together, others have them but are inactive and decorative at best.

      • Do they have a board of directors listed?
      • Do they seem qualified or equipped to provide proper governance?
      • Do they list annual reports?
      • Do they include financial statements?
      • What credentials do they have as an organization?
      • How involved is the founder(s) still?

    For clarity around finance and governance within US-based nonprofits, we recommend using GuideStar, Charity Navigator and ECFA to better learn how an organization is conducting itself. You can also access their 990 forms.

    Organizations in the UK can access valuable information through the Charities Commission and Fundraising Regulator.

    WikiCharities can provide you with information for many organizations throughout the world.

    Additional Resources

    Resources coming soon.