In addition to a basic online search, go to www.givingcompass.org, an “aggregator” website chock full of articles, background information, and the latest thinking on social issues and philanthropy. You may want to sign up for their weekly digest of news and articles.
The IRS website to verify an organization’s tax-exempt status is https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/tax-exempt-organization-search
A list of State Charity Regulators is on https://www.nasconet.org/resources/state-government/
Guidestar by Candid https://www.guidestar.org/ Often the first stop for donors, this website uses a “just the facts” approach to gather and share information on all 1.8 million IRS-registered nonprofit organizations so that donors can make their own determination. It includes a copy of IRS Form 990 as well as mission, objectives and impact summaries provided by nonprofits (but not verified by Guidestar). Accuracy and transparency are rewarded with a “seal of approval.”
Great Nonprofits http://www.greatnonprofits.org/ Founded to be the “Zagats” of the nonprofit sector, this website aggregates first-person stories and reviews of nonprofits volunteers, program participants, clients, donors and others who engage with nonprofits of all sizes, filtered by location and issue.
GiveWell https://Givewell.org/ Inspired by the Effective Altruism approach, GiveWell conducts in-depth research on how much good a given program accomplishes (in terms of lives saved, lives improved, etc.) per dollar spent, rather than focusing on financials or assessing administrative and fundraising costs like most charity evaluators. The number of issue areas and list of recommended charities is short.
Charity Navigator https://www.charitynavigator.org/ Uses a star system to rates about 10,000 charities with revenue above $1 million that have been in existence for at least seven years and receive at least 40% of their revenue from donations. Financial health, accountability and transparency, overhead costs and “fundraising efficiency” are important components of the rating – but not effectiveness and impact. (See the Module 5 case study on the “Overhead Myth.”)
Charity Watch https://www.charitywatch.org/ Rates the financial reports of about 600, primarily national, charities with scores of “A” through “F,” principally based on their overhead ratio and fundraising costs. (See the Module 5 case study on the “Overhead Myth.”)
BBB Wise Giving Alliance https://www.give.org/ Rates about 1,200 national charities according to 20 accountability standards, as well as locally soliciting charities through its local affiliates. Charities pay a fee to display the BBB seal of approval. The Alliance also the Wise Giving Guide three times a year.
Impact Matters https://www.impactmatters.org/ Rates about 1,000 nonprofits based on the “cost per dollar” (please see the case study in Module 6 about the problems with this approach)
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy https://disasterphilanthropy.org/ “The when, where and how of informed disaster giving. This excellent website provides advice on directing donations towards effective relief and recovery charities.
Animal Charity Evaluators https://animalcharityevaluators.org/ Also inspired by the Effective Altruism movement (see GiveWell above), this website focuses on selecting the highest performing animal welfare charities.
You may also wish to check out the lists of grantees that receive funding from major private foundations. For example, the Gates Foundation’s grantees are on htts://www.gatesfoundation.org/how-we-work/quick-link/grants-database
The Giving Compass has a list of issue funds https://givingcompass.or/article /issue-funds-connecting-individual-donors-impact/
https://www.cof.org/community-foundation-locator provides an interactive map of community foundations across the USA
Over the past two decades, Giving Circles have exploded in the United States going from just a handful in 2000 to many thousands today. A collection of Giving Circle networks and individual circles have joined forces to launch Philanthropy Together https://www.philanthropytogether.org/
to connect and catalyze the American Giving Circle movement, in service of democratizing and diversifying philanthropy.
Joining a giving circle is a great way to practice effective giving in a safe space with the fellowship and support of peer donors. If you decide to launch your own giving circle, here are some suggestions:
People: Decide how many people should join. Look beyond your close circle — who else should have a seat at the table (across age, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, religious affiliation, etc.)?
Funding amount: Decide how much each person is willing to give — it could range from under a hundred to several thousand dollars. Some circles set a specific amount for all participants to give equally, others base the amount on a percentage of income or wealth.
Vision & values: Decide what connects and inspires everyone in the group by creating vision, mission, and values statements to help guide what your funding.
Grant process & financial logistics: Decide on your vetting process and where the collected money will be housed. Some circles are supported by a local community foundation, some form their own 501(c)3, others use a platform like Growfund, JustFund, or Grapevine to facilitate their giving.
Meetings: Decide how frequently and where you’ll meet. Most giving circles find that four meetings are necessary to cover background research on issues (including inviting experts to speak), charity selection and due diligence. Many circles put food and fun at the center of their meetings. Will you all go on site visits together or share this duty? Will you volunteer?
The Philanthropic Initiative, which provides advice and services for donors, offers a concise primer on impact investing and a workbook approach to help donors increase their impact on the people, places, and issues they care about. https://www.tpi.org/resources/amplifying-your-philanthropy-through-impact-investing.
An excellent article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review is https://ssir.org/articles/entry/almost_everything_you_know_about_impact_investing_is_wrong#
When considering whether to combine your giving with impact investing, first reflect on the following four questions:
1. Are my current investments aligned with my values? If your portfolio is working against your charitable goals and values, you may want to start by examining your current holdings through an ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) lens.
Financial research company Morningstar offers a Sustainability Rating for thousands of mutual funds and exchange traded funds.
2. What impact investments does my wealth manager/financial advisor/broker offer? Many offer at least one or two investment options that specifically screen for companies that have positive overall ESG characteristics, or are curated around a specific cause.
The National Philanthropic Trust, for example, offers half a dozen index funds ETFs including ones with general ESG screens and others with a specific focus on gender diversity or low-carbon exposure. Growing numbers of Donor Advised Funds and Community Foundations also allow donors to make targeted, private market impact investments.
3. Do I have the tools to evaluate my impact investments? Besides Morningstar’s Sustainability Rating, US SIF (The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment) provides a list of its members’ funds (notably climate, labor relations and animal welfare, and other issue areas). The website As You Sow has five free online tools that let you screen for fossil-free funds, deforestation-free funds, weapons-free funds, tobacco-free funds, and gender equality funds. IRIS+, managed by GIIN (the Global Impact Investing Network), is the generally accepted system for measuring, managing, and optimizing impact, based on the outcome you want to achieve (for example, “increasing venture capital to women-led businesses”).
4. Do I have the right team in place to help me? The College of Financial Planning in collaboration with US SIF offers a professional designation for advisors who demonstrate expertise in socially responsible investing.
This curated list focuses on organizations offering particularly useful resources and articles on their websites
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
The Stanford Social Innovation Review
The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania
The Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University
The Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana State University
The Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society
Consultants (who make their research publicly available)
The Bridgespan Group
The Center for Effective Philanthropy
The Philanthropic Initiative
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
21/64 (next generation and multigeneration engagement in philanthropy)
The Donors of Color Network
Exponent Philanthropy (for high net worth donors and small foundations with few or no staff)
The National Center for Family Philanthropy (for family foundations)
The Philanthropy Roundtable
Political: given to political entities
Charitable: given to charitable entities, including scholarships
Religious: given through a religious entity, for example tithing through church
Donations of goods (books, clothes, food, data-such as market research or non-cash assets)
Donating bodily resources (such as being an organ donor or donating blood)
Activities that requires giving time
Participating in religious practices
Any form of religious participation (excluding monetary donation), such as prayer, singing in a church choir, or teaching religious classes
Career choices, including working for the nonprofit sector or in public service, or choosing particular activities at work
Gardening/land protection: planting trees, promoting biodiversity, growing one’s own food
Reducing waste/energy consumption: driving energy-efficient cars, conserving water
Dietary choices (eating less meat, eating locally, or being vegetarian/vegan)
Buying locally: buying from local businesses, farmers markets, or companies
Choosing ethical businesses: purchasing choices supporting businesses with a positive impact
Point of sale: donating money to a cause selected by the retailer
Buying art/supporting artists
Promote kindness to others (smiling at strangers, listening to others, driving well)
Actively engaging in the democratic process, for example by voting, canvassing, or serving as an elected official
Engaging in community and neighborhood organizations (community cleanup, attending community-based events)