1. Look at the charity’s mission.
Determine if this mission is consistent with what's important to the client. In an email, Carolyn O’Brien from MissionBridge Philanthropy LLC states, “Effective philanthropy starts with a clear purpose,” so the missions of the donors and their grantees need to be aligned.
2. Review the financial information.
Is it transparent and recent? Are the expenses in line with the budget? Has the budget increased or decreased in recent years? Look through the current Form 990 and verify the organization's tax-exempt status.
3. Look at the outcomes.
How many people has the organization helped, and has that increased or decreased over time? Given the size and budget, is that number reasonable? Catherine Chapman from Fullanthropy says via email that “great nonprofits must create lasting change for their clients and the community through the services that they offer,” and the services rendered should “be documented in the form of outcomes.”
4. Talk or meet with the organization’s leadership.
Don't be shy, if the donation is significant enough. Has there been much turnover of key staff members? How can the donation be best utilized? Who will be the contact person for the donor? Your client should know to whom exactly they will be trusting their donation. Visit the organization if possible, or volunteer to really get to know the people and quality of the work.
5. Identify who’s on the board of directors.
Are there many or few board members? Are they business or community leaders? Especially if a donor is considering joining a board, they should meet with some board members.
6. Look at the main supporters.
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Are there many funders or few? Have key funders been involved for some time? Does the client know any supporters? Determine the charity’s reputation.
7. Discuss with the leadership how the donor can be most helpful.
Besides financial contributions, are there other ways in which the donor can help? It’s important that donors don’t demand too much from the charities they support, especially when their donation to a Section 501(c)(3) organization isn’t significant and its staff is small. Clear communication is essential for helping to ensure long-term relationships.
8. Does working with the organization make you feel good?
Your client needs to feel feel that their contributions and efforts are appreciated. Susan Winer from Strategic Philanthropy Ltd. said via email, “When donors consider a gift or grant to an organization they are, in essence, creating a partnership that is (or should be) based on open and honest communication about intent, capacity, alignment of interests and financial stability.”