As many give thanks this holiday season, they are looking for ways to spread cheer, give back and support those less fortunate. Some take the opportunity to give time, others donate food or money to a charity. With thousands of charities in Utah alone, finding the perfect fit can be overwhelming.
Southern Utah University’s Dr. Angela Pool-Funai, the director of the master of public administration program and an expert on philanthropy and nonprofits, has a few suggestions on how to donate wisely, and make a lasting impact this holiday season.
#1: Consider Your Passions
Dr. Pool-Funai recommends beginning a search for the perfect charity considering your passions: “Are you drawn to humanitarian organizations that serve immediate needs for those less fortunate? What about educational institutions or religious organizations?”
#2: Local, National or International Organizations
Is the organization’s work effective in the local community, nationally or globally? Consider all levels of reach, and again, who or what cause would you like to support.
“Many national and international nonprofit organizations do great work,” says Dr. Pool-Funai, “but also consider smaller organizations in your local community that are helping your fellow neighbors. Those nonprofit groups also need financial support, as well as in-kind donations such as clothing, supplies, or non-perishable foods.”
#3: Financial Health of the Organization
Before donating, look into the financial health of the organization, particularly, how much of the donated funds are being placed towards the cause. Is the company accountable and transparent?
“Administrative costs, or overhead, are an important part of keeping a nonprofit organization up and running. After all, these groups still have obligations like electricity bills and personnel expenses. However, most of a donation should go toward the actual programming or outreach efforts of the organization.”
While many nonprofit organizations feature annual financial reports on their websites, Dr. Pool-Funai offers a simple solution for checking in to an institution’s financial health:
“The Foundation Center’s 990 Finder is a free database of nonprofit organizations’ tax returns that you can use to research the financial health of charitable groups across the country. Taking just a few minutes to research a charity can help you feel better knowing that the donation is truly going to a worthwhile cause.”
#4: Stay Within Budget
When budgeting for the holidays, it can be easy to overextend and end up with debts in the new year. Before donating, find a balance between maximizing the impact and not being careless with your financial health. Take a look at your budget and decide the how much is affordable.
Giving to local organizations opens up opportunity to donate volunteer hours, which may be more effective than donating money and overextending a budget.
Previously to her time at SUU, Dr. Pool-Funai worked with grants and research administration in the nonprofit sector. She is familiar with the media and available for an interview. Visit her profile to arrange a time.
Angela Pool-Funai Director of the Master of Public Administration Program
Specializing in experiential learning, fund-raising, and grant writing in higher education