Research charities before giving

Niko Zulli-reporter
Niko Zulli-reporter

By Nico Zulli

In a few short weeks, another senior class at Baylor will embark into the real world, with many accepting jobs as professionals in various fields around the country and world.

As graduates of a university that fosters a sense of civic responsibility, some of these fledgling Baylor professionals will be looking to give a portion of their future salary to charitable organizations or not for profit entities to fulfill their aspiration for giving back.

How should we, as future young professionals, go about investing hard-earned money toward a cause of choice with proper foresight? defines socially responsible investors as people who are looking to promote concepts they feel strongly about by means of investing in organizations and companies and governments by shareholder advocacy and community investing.

How many times have you been approached by someone asking for money while sitting in your car at a stoplight? Or asked to donate a dollar or two at the checkout when paying for groceries?

We often feel compelled to donate to various places and people, as we are constantly cajoled for money on a daily basis. But in dignifying our conscience, knee-jerk gift giving can certainly take a bite out of your budget.

This is not to say that spontaneous giving is bad, but it is important to develop a habit of resource awareness and fiscal responsibility, especially when it comes to giving your money away.

Over the break, I had a conversation with my mom about how to choose where I should invest a portion of my salary once I started working. I realized how little I knew about how to assess the investment credibility of charities and nonprofit organizations that stir my passion.

I would like to donate part of my salary to a place and cause that I am passionate about, but I also want to be assured that my money is actually going where an organization says it will go.

Forbes essentially says the Socially Responsible Approach is recognizing your money is your voice — and where you choose to place that money is where you are choosing to place your value. So to say, your money speaks for you.

But how do we know if a charity or nonprofit is legitimate? The Association of Small Foundations and Fidelity Charitable says there are specific qualities and characteristics common to effective nonprofits, including clear mission and purpose, ability to perform key functions, strong practices, procedures, and policies, reputable financing and governance and organizational/program development.

In an article on Nonprofit Effectiveness, Social Velocity says that just a few years ago, the only measure for non-profit’s effectiveness was the percent spent on overhead expenses. Today it seems there are more efforts to move the nonprofit sector toward measuring outcomes and impact instead of spending practices.

However, yearly audits are conducted and made available upon request so that potential donors can see the breakdown of the organization’s fiscal management processes.

The National Council of Nonprofits says that organizations that are serious about their theory of change engage in regular self-assessment and evaluation of outcomes.

To put these assessment tools into practical perspective, Whole Foods Market established Whole Planet Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization that provides grants to microfinance institutions in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East. According to the Foundation’s website, these microfinance institutions, then develop and offer microenterprise loan programs, training, and other financial services to the self-employed poor. The website also states 100 percent of donations from donors go to these microfinance institutions.

In addition, Whole Planet Foundation has an entire section of Financials on their website to demonstrate that they are committed to keeping administrative and fundraising expenses low relative to program expenses.

The point of this example is that this is the proper process to go through in evaluating the legitimacy of a nonprofit. We might conclude in this case that Whole Planet Foundation makes an effort to be relatively transparent with potential donors, but this may not be the case for another non-profit to which we might consider donating money.

Performing proper background research and being proactive donors are two necessary efforts to ensure maximum security and success when it comes to putting our money on a mission.

Nico Zulli is a senior journalism major from Houston. She is a reporter for The Lariat.