6 Questions to Ask Before You Donate to a Charity

Here at Worldbuilders, we are careful to make sure that all of the money that we raise with you goes where it can do the most good. This means vetting charities to make sure that they are going to channel that cash donation into an actual impact to make the world a better place.

Our Marketing Mogul Beth has created an in-depth page talking about the criteria we use when we’re selecting a charity to raise money for. This is just the cheat sheet, so you can have some things to think about when you’re wanting to put your money where your heart is.

  • Is it a Federally Registered Charity? If it’s a 501(c)3, the organisation has agreed to be regulated by the US tax code. Like Worldbuilders it means that they are accountable to report publicly donations, disbursement, and more.
  • What type of charity is it? All of these are legit ways to run a charity, but the way various organisations function can be very different both in means and purpose:
    • Public Charities operate mainly from public or government grants. 
    • Private foundations usually are founded by families or small groups and get their funding from a few sources such as endowments or investments.
    • Direct-Action Charities work directly to solve problems or issues – which can be difficult, since raising funds and doing that work is a lot for any organization to do.
    • Pass-Thru Charities (like Worldbuilders) raise awareness of fundraising needs in various groups (hello, fellow geeks!) and pass them on to more direct-action organizations (hello, Heifer International!).
  • Did you fall for the Overhead Myth? There’s a mistaken idea that the effectiveness of a charity can be measured by the ratio of the cost of “overhead” to the total funds donated. Aside from the problematic definition of what “overhead” is, it sets up an unfair metric due to the wide variety of needs and types of organizations.
    There are many well-documented articles and videos trying to fix this harmful stereotype, perhaps the best delivered and most accessible is Dan Pallota’s TED Talk, The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong. Make sure you inform yourself about this so that the next time someone mentions “overhead” in regards to a charity, you can see the bigger picture.
  • Does their purpose match their mission? One of the first things any organization does is create a mission statement (here’s Worldbuilders). Do the projects and initiatives they undertake further that mission, or are they heading in some other direction?
  • How transparent are they? As a donor, you should have easy access to information about how your donation is being used. The more a charity communicates with the public, the more likely it is that you can trust them.
  • Do they make an effort to be anti-oppressive? Colonialism, “white saviorism”, exoticism, this kind of issue has many faces – and they can be far more damaging than any overhead ratio. We look for charities that work with the local communities in need, rather than decreeing solutions or worse, doing performative works for a privileged audience.

You can learn more deeply about each of these questions by checking out the page that Beth wrote, but there is one more important thing to take away. As she put it:

The above guidelines are not hard and fast rules: they are guidelines meant to help guide you in finding ethical charities. Use these guidelines as starting points, but use your best judgement when evaluating any charity.

Do you have a charity you think Worldbuilders should look at donating to? Let us know!