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Tips for giving more: Do your research

September 11, 2009

So you’ve made a plan for your giving and you know the causes that really matter to you. How do you decide which nonprofit gets your carefully budgeted dollars?

Again, follow the same pattern you would for any investment. Do some research and ask the experts for advice.

In the Birmingham area, you can contact Jan Bell at the Community Foundation or just scan our website for a list of nonprofits we’ve made grants to recently. We’ve done the due diligence to make sure their programs are sound and focused on the most pressing needs of our community, and we welcome the chance to help you direct additional dollars to these worthy causes.

You can do your own research by checking what the organization says on its website. If their board of directors is not listed, call and ask. Or look at the 990s on line at Guidestar for a full financial picture.

Or follow what we do at the Community Foundation — make a site visit and see for yourself where your money would be used. Ask questions about contributions from board members — do they all support the cause as well? If administrative costs seem high, ask why, because this part of the budget may include the staff-intensive efforts needed to meet people’s needs.

Consider the school you attended, the religious organization where you worship — these are all worthy causes and you should already know plenty about them to make you confident in your gift.

Take your time, do your research, and you can be sure your gift will truly count. Stay tuned for another tip tomorrow.

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