With the holidays quickly approaching, many people are thinking even more about helping non-profits. Non-profit organizations need help all year long, but many also have special programs around the holidays.
If you like to help others and feel you’re in a position to give, you might be looking for an organization you can trust to do good. Unfortunately, there are some organizations out there that are either not as great as them seem or even full-blown scams. Some scammers take advantage of peoples’ giving spirits, while some organizations are just deceptive and have the wrong priorities.
You might hear people talk about some of these charities, or you could see some great-sounding charities pop up on Facebook or in an email. Or, on the other hand, you might not have seen or found a non-profit that you really feel drawn to. You might just be looking for an organization that does something specific that you care about and you’re not sure where to start.
Thankfully, there are many options online to find the right non-profits for your interests, make sure they’re keeping up good practices, and learn more about giving. And keep in mind, most non-profits are not holiday-specific—they need help year ‘round. So bookmark this article and stay in the giving mindset!
How to find non-profits
If you haven’t figured out which non-profit organization you want to donate to, you have some options for how to go about it. Some people are looking for organizations solely based on the type of cause. Some people want to find local organizations or non-profits in another specific area. Whatever you’re looking for, you can probably find it online.
Find non-profits based on interests
If there’s a specific topic or cause you’re interested in, you can probably find the non-profit you’re looking for! There are a few different websites you can use to find organizations by topic. CharityWatch is a popular website mostly for its work as a non-profit watchdog, but you can also look for organizations by interest. Visit their Charity Ratings page and use the drop-down box to scroll through an alphabetical list of charities from each interest.
Charity Navigator is also widely used for non-profit evaluation, but like CharityWatch, it is really helpful in discovering charities to begin with. Their Browse Categories page organizes non-profits first in broad categories and then into more specific subcategories.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for at those websites, you can also get started with Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a “Charities by topic” page that, while not particularly intuitive, can give you a good starting point. You can click through different categories and then look at the Wikipedia entries for different charities.
Find non-profits based on location
You can also look for organizations based on where they’re located. Specifically, try using Charity Navigator’s advanced search. You don’t have to enter a keyword. You can simply put in a location and search! If you really want to narrow things down, you can enter a location and choose an interest from the “Category/Cause” dropdown.
Ask your friends
Your friends might already be involved in some great non-profits, but maybe you just haven’t heard them mention it yet. Try making a Facebook post, Tweeting, or messaging your friends and family to ask for recommendations. They might have more info than you think.
How to check a non-profit’s practices
Once you’ve found non-profits you’re interested in, you should always (always always) check to make sure they’re legit. No one wants to support a shady organization, right?
Look them up on evaluative websites
There are some websites that give charities grades or ratings based on different criteria. Here are some of them:
You can also get some information for free on GuideStar, though you have to pay for more detailed information and there are not ratings for the organizations.
Search for news stories or blog posts
Hop onto your favorite search engine and search for any recent news or posts about your specific organization. You might be able to find news stories that demonstrate how the organization is well-supported and trusted in a community. Or you could find recent articles about how the organization was caught scamming people.
Be extremely careful to only trust credible sources. Make sure anything you find is from a trusted or reliable website!
Ask your friends (but be careful)
As mentioned above, your friends might be a good source of information. You can post on Facebook or your favorite social media site to ask for your friends’ opinions about certain organizations. But beware! Take responses with a grain of salt. If someone simply had one experience they didn’t like, they might drag an organization unfairly. Try looking up the organization and adding keywords to your search based on the responses you get.
How to help a non-profit online
Once you’ve found a trustworthy organization, there are different ways you can help them out online. Make sure to look around each organization’s website carefully to spot anything that says what they need the most at the moment!
Look for a donate button
Many (if not all) non-profits have donate buttons on their websites. They’ll often be displayed prominently on the homepage. There also could be a donate button at the very bottom of the page. A lot of websites also have a “Donate” or “Give” link in their main navigation.
Look for a wishlist
Some organizations specifically need items, not money. Look around for a wishlist instead of automatically giving money. Some websites will call attention to what they need the most. If there’s a “Give” or “Donate” link in the navigation, look to see whether they ask for items to be sent. Check their homepage, as well. Some organizations create Amazon wishlists—consider buying from their list if they have any needs at the moment!
Create a fundraiser on Facebook
You can create a fundraiser for some organizations on Facebook! If you have a lot of Facebook friends, are good at promoting your posts, or just know a lot of giving people, you can really help an organization here. Go to Facebook’s Fundraisers page and see whether your organization is an option!
And don’t forget…
If you’ve been the victim of a charity or fundraising scam, report it right away! You could help others avoid falling into the same trap. Go to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant page and file a report.
Help with programs
If you can’t quite find a non-profit that covers the cause you’re interested in, consider speaking with someone about expanding or creating a program. If you’ve found an organization that you think a specific program could fit into, look for the organization’s contact information and bring up your idea. Offer your help, as well! It might not go anywhere, but it doesn’t hurt to show local interest in a specific cause.
Volunteer your time, as well!
Don’t just give money or material goods—volunteer your time whenever you possibly can. Do this throughout the year so the organization isn’t just overwhelmed with help during the holiday season. Most websites will have a page about volunteering. Get in contact with the organization and then show up to help!