Black Lives Matter; Making a Difference With Your Charitable Giving
AdHoc said it best: For everyone that is feeling outraged by the multiple lives that have been lost at the hands of the police, we’d encourage you to channel that anger into action. For some, that action looks like self-education and awareness, or protesting, or speaking out amongst their friends and community. Another consideration may be giving to one of several organizations working diligently in the fight against systemic racism and violence. Unfortunately, some charities can indiscriminately attempt to capitalize on public sentiment; tying solicitation requests to current events where their charitable work is only tenuously related to the events at hand. So what steps can you take to ensure that your charitable donations are being used to effect the most good?
Charitable giving due diligence tools
Nonprofit watchdog and accountability organizations such as guidestar.org, charitynavigator.org, charitywatch.org, and givewell.org, each offer their own set of ratings and metrics for evaluating the efficiency, accountability, and governance of nonprofit organizations. Each has its own distinct focus and user interface. Collectively, their reporting can give you a good and verifiable snapshot of the charitable organizations that top your list.
How do you choose the right nonprofit for your charitable contribution?
To begin with, make sure the charity you are considering is a federally recognized tax-exempt nonprofit. This factor alone ensures that a nonprofit has met basic federal requirements and entertains at least a minimum level of oversight and reporting. Next, you’ll want to examine the charity’s finances to make sure they are financially healthy; your charitable dollars won’t do much good if your chosen charity folds in six months for lack of funds or prudent financial management. You may make exceptions for start-ups that have savvy founders that you trust. Likewise, when perusing their website or other sources of information, look for nonprofits that demonstrate transparency and accountability in their practices. Who is their board of directors, do they have robust bylaws in place and do they have reports such as meeting minutes, annual reports, and financials that are regularly reported and easy to find? As charitynavigator.org proffers, charities that are an open book and follow good governance practices are less likely to engage in unethical or irresponsible activities.
Finally, don’t forget to evaluate the actual impacts and effectiveness of each organization you are considering supporting. What results are they actually achieving and what are their future objectives? In some cases, donors are often surprised to find that the lion share of their contributions go to weighty administrative staff salaries and marketing efforts, rather than making on-the-ground impacts to those who are supposedly being served by the nonprofit.
An additional factor to consider is whether you want your reach to be global or more locally focused. And how far will your charitable dollars go in furthering the cause of your chosen organization; depending on the size and location of your charity, a smaller gift can go a lot further towards providing direct services.
Still not sure where to send your dollars in the fight against racism?
There are many reputable and deserving nonprofits that are worthy of your thoughtful consideration and research. But if you need some ideas, here are a few recommendations:
BlackLivesMatter.com — Their name speaks for itself; BLM is engaged in global efforts in the ongoing fight to end state-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people, and end white supremacy forever.
ACLU.org — For 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has acted as defender of constitutional rights and civil liberties; according to the ACLU, much of their work focuses on equality for people of color, women, gay and transgender people, prisoners, immigrants, and people with disabilities. Note that because of their robust lobbying efforts, the ACLU maintains two separate corporate entities, the ACLU and the ACLU Foundation; only donations to Foundation, the non-lobbying entity are tax-deductible. Donations made directly to the ACLU are not tax-deductible.
Community Bail Funds – help directly address the disparities in pre-trial detention for those who are unable to post bail; communities of color have historically been disadvantaged in this respect. In short, your contributions to community bail funds help free people who have been jailed without being convicted of a crime. Financial support ensures that protestors are able to continue to gather without fear of undue and unfair incarceration.
Due to the fluid and rapidly evolving nature of events, some of the larger and well-known bail funds are reporting that they are being overwhelmed with charitable support and are directing requests for contributions to other smaller but reputable bail fund organizations. You can find a comprehensive and up-to-date registry here.
Ellis Carter is a nonprofit lawyer with Caritas Law Group, P.C. licensed to practice in Washington and Arizona. Ellis advises nonprofit and socially responsible businesses on corporate, tax, and fundraising regulations nationwide. Ellis also advises donors with regard to major gifts. To schedule a consultation with Ellis, call 602-456-0071 or email us through our contact form.