This time of year, many Americans are setting (or already breaking) New Year’s resolutions focused on getting healthier, saving money, spending more time with friends and family, etc. These are great resolutions, but perhaps this year, you’re thinking about ways you can make a difference. Giving back by donating to a nonprofit can help you feel more connected to your community and more gratification in knowing your New Year’s resolution will have a lasting impact for someone else.
In many cases, however, starting the process of where to donate your hard-earned funds can be overwhelming. After all, the array of groups requesting donations is substantial and includes 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the U.S. alone.
In 2016, generous individuals donated a whopping $281.9 billion to U.S. nonprofits, a 4 percent increase from 2015. Because there are more than a million nonprofits to choose from, the decision of where to donate requires serious thought. When looking to donate, you should set some key criteria for choosing a group that means something to you. During that process, you should consider seeking answers to the following five questions:
1. Does the organization have a history of success? Take a good look at when it was founded, exactly how it has helped people and what it has accomplished to date. Do its achievements align with your ideas as to how the world can best be improved? Will this nonprofit have a real and lasting impact on a cause that you deeply care about?
2. Do its contributions appeal to you emotionally? Contributing to a specialized nonprofit that pulls at your heartstrings can be the most fulfilling option. As such, you should seek an organization that clearly communicates how your money will be spent and how it will help people in real, tangible ways. For example, for more than three decades The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS) has supported the families of nearly 42,000 children battling cancer, providing more than $65 million worth of transportation, emergency and emotional assistance, helping families stay strong, stay positive and stay together.
3. Can you easily find examples of individuals or families that have benefited from the organization? Actions speak louder than words. An organization may say how it helps others, but showing how it helps others is a proof point you should look for. Here’s an example of what you should be looking for. The NCCS was approached by a mother whose then 19-month-old daughter, Paisley, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Paisley spent several drawn-out months in the hospital, along with unexpected emergency room visits due to high fevers. Paisley’s mom, Paula, was a single mom spending enormous amounts of time caring for her daughter, and ultimately lost her job. Unemployed and with travel expenses quickly adding up, Paula almost lost her car. Paula was referred to the NCCS by her hospital social worker, and from there on out, the NCCS has been by Paula and Paisley’s side. Through the Emergency Assistance Fund and the Transportation Assistance Fund, NCCS helped Paula keep her car and pay for mileage expenses, ensuring that Paisley will get to each and every doctor’s appointment.
In another example, donations to the NCCS completely changed the lives of a family whose child has been struck three times by retinoblastoma, cancer of the eye. Parents Daniel and Marian are blind, and two of their three children, now 5 and 9, have endured multiple treatments since having potentially fatal eye tumors removed as infants. NCCS has helped by funding transportation and lodging for appointments, allowing the children to receive medical evaluations and surveillance. As of now, the chance their cancer will return stands at only 5 percent.
4. Does it serve people beyond just funding? Multiple organizations can redistribute your money to support worthy causes, but you may prefer to find one that also assists people in more personal ways. NCCS, for example, equips families with skilled case managers who provide practical and emotional support to help parents and caregivers navigate throughout their daunting childhood cancer journeys. Further, youth 10 to 17 are offered emotional support by young-adult mentors who have already survived cancer.
5. Is it credible? Is the charity you’re looking to support accredited by the Better Business Bureau? That organization sets standards for charity accountability that include governance, fundraising practices, solicitations and more. While having an emotional tie to a charity is important, recognition by a comprehensive, in-depth evaluation service like the Better Business Bureau is imperative.
Families and the vast network of social workers who refer them know what they get with NCCS — a reliable, compassionate and transparent partner that truly understands the landscape of childhood cancer, and the mountains families need to move to come out the other side victorious. If you’re looking to make a lasting impact with your New Year’s resolution this year, consider donating to NCCS today.