Guidelines for Giving: Questions to Ask Nonprofit Organizations and Charities

Thinking of donating to a charitable organization this holiday season? Here are six questions to ask charities before you do.

The season of giving is upon us, and there are many charities in southeast Michigan that need your help. But how do families figure out which ones are the best charities to donate to? The Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Michigan Attorney General’s office have handy tips to help you evaluate your choices. Over the years, the groups have suggested considering these six questions to ask a nonprofit organization or charity before making a donation.

1. What is the organization’s purpose?

2. What programs or services will your donation support? You have the right to ask exactly how your funds will be used – and even to request that your money be designated for a certain purpose. However, keep in mind that in difficult financial times, donations with few strings attached can be the most helpful.

3. How much of your donation will go toward programming rather than administrative expenses?

4. Is the donation tax deductible? Only donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are deductible on the federal level. Make sure to ask if the organization has received this tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. Click here to visit the IRS website for more information.

5. Does the organization have measurable goals? Ask about the organization’s recent accomplishments and what it hopes to accomplish in the next year.

6. Is the organization licensed to solicit funds from the public? Under Michigan law, most charities must be. To find out if a charity is licensed, visit the Michigan Attorney General’s charities hotlink or call 877-765-8388. You can even search charities online.

To learn even more about “Giving Wisely,” and to get more tips, visit the Michigan Attorney General’s webpage, too.

What are your family’s favorite charities and nonprofit organizations to donate to? Share your suggestions for other families in the comments!

This post was originally published in 2009 is updated regularly.

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