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Guide to Smart(er) Giving: A few quick tips to make sure generosity is doing the most good

It seems simple enough: You find a cause near to your heart, you write a check or donate online, and a good deed ensues. But that’s not always the case. The truth is not all charitable organizations are managed equally.

There are a few best practices you should know when it comes to charitable giving. Create the Good has put together these quick tips to help make sure recipients get the most from your generosity.

Start Research Online 
Treat charitable giving like you would a stock, new car, or appliance. Spend time upfront doing some shopping and comparing online. Independent websites, such as Charity NavigatorCharityWatch, and GuideStar, rate thousands of charities based on a variety of factors including their financial stability, their ethical practices, or how much of your money actually goes to the intended cause.

This last one is important. Let’s say you give $100 to help cure a disease. You’ll want to know just how much of that sum goes toward actual research—versus staff salaries or the organization’s next fundraising campaign.

A quick search for recent news articles (from reputable sources) will also give you a good idea of what an organization has been up to lately.

Ask Questions 
If you can’t find the information you’re looking for online, pick up the phone and call the charity you’re curious about. Don’t be afraid to ask staff tough questions, such as how the organization lives its mission—and how your gift will further it. Ask about some recent success stories. And be sure to find out how they track their results. These are all questions they should be used to answering—and if not, that could be a red flag.

Try Before You Buy 
If your charity is locally based—and you have the time—why not offer to volunteer there? This way, you can provide a valuable service while you get to know the people and the operation from the inside out. There’s no better way to decide if a group is worthy of your donation!

Get More Bang for Your Bucks
Some charities have “matching funds” behind them, courtesy of a grant or generous donors. This means that when a donor gives money, that amount is matched by someone else. You may be able to double your own impact by choosing a charity that has this benefit. You may also want to check with your employer to see if your company offers a charitable matching program.