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« Help Social Actions Reach 9 Goals For 2009 by giving $20.09 to Social Actions | Main | Twitter Under The Microscope: The Trusted Circle »


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Bill Kennedy

To extend this discussion into a Canadian context, the Canada Revenue Agency, the Canadian equivalent to the IRS, maintains a web site where donors can look up charities to see whether or not they are valid. It even lists charities whose status has been revoked.

Just go here:


Nathaniel Whittemore

Thanks for writing, Beth! I think your point is great - that in a connected world, many of our friends and family have links to nonprofits and this is potentially the best way to approach our giving, when possible. I think it certainly "doubles" your impact in the sense of your both investing in a cause as well as the people behind it, and that's important to growing a healthy nonprofit sector. I also like your sense of the value of smaller gifts - they can have a real ripple effect - particularly when you use social media to aggregate them.

Erin Johansen Hurwitt

This is such a great discussion, and a great time to be having it.

I donate a lot to international charities that deal with human trafficking and childhood education, so the trust issue is often difficult to sort out. I am the type of donor who learns about a particular cause, and then goes to the Internet to find charities who are doing that work, and I tend to like to donate to charities that are doing great work but are underrepresented in the media, don't have a huge marketing budget, etc. Either that, or I learn about an organization through friends or social networks. I try to find charities that are involved in direct work in their communities, or who are addressing systemic problems on a legislative level (or both).

These are the things I look for:

1) News items. Have they been reported on in the media?

2) Success stories. Do they get specific with their success? I want to know that my money is going to an organization that has a good track record.

3) Transparency. How transparent are they about their staff, their funding, etc.? If I can't find anything about their location, their staff or their main sources of funding, I probably won't donate.

4) Links from other sites. Who is linking to them? UNICEF and other international organizations have lists of NGOs that have been vetted before being linked to. The absence from a list like this doesn't mean they're not legit, but it helps legitimize them.

5) Publications. Have they put out any respected publications that have been referenced elsewhere?

I think these work with any non-profit, but these are the guidelines I follow when choosing to donate to an international non-profit.

I've recently established a relationship with a small village school in northeast India (, which is educating and providing medical attention to underprivileged, Dalit & tribal boys and girls, including those orphaned by terrorist attacks in the cities. I heard about them through colleagues, and then checked them out online. We're going to India in a couple of weeks and plan on visiting the school, and are sponsoring some orphaned girls and are also taking school supplies. My husband and I have started asking our families to contribute to the school in lieu of xmas/hannukah gifts. One of my siblings (a vice-principal) has asked his co-workers and friends to contribute, and the response has been great, so much so that we'll probably have to make a shipment of supplies to the school... so it just goes to show the power of persuasion, and how far it can travel!

Grampa Ken - 7 Decades c/w potholes

I've been using the Charity Guide site which contains the American Institute of Philanthropy's Top-Rated Charities by Category.

It also has links to other resources such as BBB's ratings.

Will Hull - United Cerebral Palsy eCommunications/eDevelopment Specialist

I actually read Robert Cialdini's "Influence" book for my Organizational Theory class during the fall of 2007 for my Masters. I was at the beginning at the time. But I can understand a lot of what he has to say and am employing it in seeking dollars for my nonprofit (United Cerebral Palsy) by incrementally ratcheting up the commitment level.

Now I am speaking personally and am not representing my nonprofit in any way as these are my own opinions/remarks in what follows.

First get them to sign up, then get them to choose what interests them (Advocacy, e-newsletters, just general news) then it is a subtle ask in helping achieve what they are interested in. This just plays on one principle in the book (commitment: when one gets their toe in the pool, they are likely to go deeper because they are committed to getting in in the first place)

I would recommend this read to anyone.

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