Here are some tips for donors when considering whether to give to a charity:

Clarify your values and preferences

  • Charities are as diverse as the people who donate. Don’t just give to the first one that solicits you: consider the type of charity that means the most to you—small or large; startup or established; serving locally, nationally, or internationally.

  • Make sure a nonprofit has an easy-to-understand mission that aligns with your principles and beliefs.

Verify a charity's legitimacy

  • Let’s face it: there are sham nonprofits out there. If you see a big green check mark next to “Registered with IRS” on a nonprofit’s GuideStar profile, you know it’s legitimate. No check mark means further investigation is required.
  • If the charity is not on GuideStar, ask to see its IRS letter of determination.
  • If the organization is faith-based, ask to see its official listing in a directory for its denomination.

Get the facts

  • Once you find a nonprofit that meets your basic requirements, dig a bit deeper. Pay attention to factors most relevant to nonprofit performance—results, transparency, and leadership—and don’t focus on overhead ratios (see
  • Visit a nonprofit’s website. Read its annual report. Trust your instincts
  • Your donation should make you happy! If you have concerns about a charity, don’t contribute to it. Instead, find another nonprofit that does the same kind of work and makes you feel more comfortable. Reputable charities:
    • Are willing to send you literature about their work or direct you to a website.
    • Don’t use pressure tactics.
    • Take “no” for an answer.