As a global nonprofit, we know firsthand that the world is full of people living in survival mode and in desperate need of basic essentials like food, water, shelter, and healthcare. Thankfully, there are thousands of charities and organizations dedicated to providing relief and support for people in these circumstances, but it’s only possible because of gracious donations from people like you.
Deciding where your donations should go and how they can make the biggest impact for those in need can be a daunting task. Often, people who are compelled to give lose sight in their search due to a lack of donor transparency that ultimately prevents people from giving at all. Databases that certify some of the best charities can provide guidance, but not all nonprofits are included and the latest industry innovators are often missed.
Despite the uncertainty and overwhelming number of nonprofit options, there are ways to cut through the noise and find a worthy cause that speaks to you. We compiled a list of the four key qualities that some of the world’s best charities — in our humble opinion — showcase in order to help guide you to a trustworthy, transparent charity where you can give with confidence.
Quality #1: Strong Values
Strong values are apparent not just in marketing and catchy headlines, but in the decision-making and priorities of the organizations themselves. When a charity truly believes in their work, they live and breathe their mission, and every decision ultimately rolls up to the values they hold. Values aren’t just words on a webpage: they’re how the charity makes decisions and guides their impact. Watsi is a model example of an organization with strong values; the universal healthcare nonprofit believes wholeheartedly in the power of technology and uses it in every aspect of their work.
Quality #2: Monetary Transparency
Transparency translates to trust in nonprofit work — whether with donations, practices, or resources. By showing allocated funds, a charity that prioritizes transparent operation models demonstrates that they can be trusted. By being upfront about where donor money and resources are going, how they’re being used, and who it’s helping, a charity better informs their benefactors and builds a reputation of honesty and integrity.
One organization that embodies this quality is charity: water. As a nonprofit dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to people in developing countries, charity: water has always inspired us with their commitment to transparency across the board. From tracking every dollar raised to providing in-depth financial reports, this organization clearly demonstrates transparency by defining how donations are used.
However, when charities lack focus on transparency, problems can ensue. It becomes all too easy to channel designated donor funds into avenues like overhead costs, rather than allocating significant funding to the actual cause itself. The Charities Review Council recommends no more than 35 percent of spending on overhead and at least 65 percent of total spending on program expenses.
Donating to charities that practice to 100% model is one way to ensure transparency in giving, but there are other ways to figure out if a charity is allocating money well. For example, charity: water identifies every completed project on a GPS map, so donors know exactly where their money went and how it was used. Charities can also share annual impact reports, videos demonstrating the overall impact, and ratings and reviews from donors and partners.
Quality #3: Partnerships
The best charities are almost always tackling problems so big they can’t be solved alone. That’s why they turn to other organizations for thoughtful partnerships. But great charities don’t take this decision lightly; in fact, they spend a lot of time ensuring that their future partner shares similar values.
Identifying who a nonprofit partners with can help you learn a great deal their priorities. Partners with strong values who are open and honest are a good indicator that the charity in question has done their research and made thoughtful, informed partnership decisions. You can uncover this information by checking out a charity’s partner page before deciding to donate or volunteer. If you like what you see and what they stand for, then they might be a good fit for you.
Quality #4: Efficiency
It isn’t news that technology is dramatically changing every industry. While in general the nonprofit sector lags behind in technology, some of the best charities in the world are currently using top-of-the-line technology solutions to streamline their operations, multiply the impact from donations, and solve long-term problems.
But technology can be more than just an efficiency tool; the best charities are innovative and forward-thinking when it comes to solving problems with tech.
WATERisLife is a nonprofit that’s using the latest water filtration technology to efficiently provide safe drinking water to those without it. They exercise innovative technology and research to build a variety of different breakthrough solutions for water filtration devices based on the needs in different communities around the globe. Additionally, our team at New Story has been working to end global homelessness since 2015 by building homes for people living in survival mode without adequate shelter. As part of that mission, we’ve leveraged technology to develop tools like our survey software, which makes it easy to gather data from the field to understand our impact.
We believe that by sharing our innovations with organizations and governments to amplify our impact, we can fight global homelessness for the estimated 3 billion people who will be living without adequate shelter by 2050. We invite you to join us on this journey to end global homelessness.
Ready to donate?
Now that you know what goes into making a charity great, it’s time to find the perfect charity to donate to. Check out our blog post to learn about charities that are really moving the needle with some of the world’s most critical issues.
There are a lot of amazing causes out there to support. Learn why we believe homelessness matters so much.