Throughout the year, I come across many dedicated non-profits doing important advocacy work for health and wellness. Among my favorites: The American Brain Tumor Association, Blissful Bedrooms, and Post Polio Health International. Donations to such organizations fund research to find cures, provide adaptive
rehabilitative equipment to those who do have not the resources, or sponsor projects to improve quality of life for young persons with disabilities.
In this season of giving, there are countless ways to contribute, make a difference, or support an issue you care about. Where to start? Charity Navigator, the nation's largest and most up-to-date evaluator of charities, is a unique service offering accessible information on the financial health of charities across the U.S. "Our resource is designed for all donors,"says Sandra Miniutti, Vice President of Marketing and CFO. On Charity Navigator, you can search for charities by name, topic of interest, location or type of activity. Each charity is awarded an overall rating from zero to four stars. The rating system evaluates how responsibly a charity functions day-to-day as well as how it maintains its programs over time.
What are the issues you care about? Do you want to support a health issue or a local non-profit serving a specific population? Are you interested in global relief efforts for events no longer covered in the media? Miniutti suggests, "Pick a charity that is consistent with your beliefs. Do a personal assessment of what you would like your donation to accomplish. In cases of global relief, are you interested in supporting immediate assistance or do you want to commit to the long haul towards rebuilding efforts?"
The ethos at Charity Navigator is to promote "intelligent giving" - that well managed charities and non profits lead to donations that will be more effective. In addition, surfing the Charity Navigator web site is a fascinating glimpse into the world of philanthropy. For this aim, Charity Navigator provides several user friendly tools to assist you in deciding on how broadly or specifically you would like to give. There are tips for older donors, a guide to volunteering, a tip sheet for donating non-cash items, and a new option of purchasing a charity gift card. Better yet, if philanthropic giving becomes an area of personal interest, you can stay on top of news and trends year round by subscribing to the Charity Navigator E- Newsletter.
"Be a pro-active donor; instead of a charity contacting you, sit down at the beginning of the year and come up with a plan. Charities like hearing from donors. Ask about what kind of success they have with the programs you are interested in," Miniutti explains. Charity Navigator, operated by a modest, committed staff, is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. They are unique in that they do not accept funding from charities they evaluate, so that they can remain objective and they do not charge visitors to the web site a fee to use the services. "We rate 5,500 charities representing 65% of giving in the U.S. We would like to get up to 80%, but don't have the resources right now," says Miniutti.
In the spirit of giving - if you make use of this excellent resource - remember to give back. Charity Navigator welcomes all donations, even as small as $10.
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