Where are my charitable donations going? Is there an easy online tool I can use to find out?

by Francis Wooby on September 24, 2010

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Recent stories, like this one, about charities spending much, and even most of their income on overhead make me uneasy about giving. When I donate a dollar to a cause, I’d like to know that most of it is going towards the cause, and not to administrators, fundraising consultants, telemarketing companies, etc.

This (like almost everything else) got me thinking about the Internet, and how it would be mighty handy to have a simple site/app/page I can consult to rate charities I’m thinking of donating to.

There are tools such as Charity Navigator and a few Better Business Bureau lists, but these seem to serve the United States.

From what I can tell, in Canada donators are expected to review an organization’s annual reports/financial statements and search through BBB sites ourselves in order to evaluate the credibility of a potential recipient of our money. This seems like a lot of work for an age of pervasive instant gratification.

Instead, I’d like to see something along the lines of Rate My MD where I can quickly search a charity to get an overview of some sort, such as a grade or score, as well as a summary of complaints and praise.

Yes, there are dangers to this approach. No doubt some non-profit marketers will seek out ways of gaming the system to bump their organizations up to the top of the ratings, etc. I think this can be managed, though.

And I think it’s an idea worth investing some resources into—especially for the charities. As money gets tighter, our society shifts even further online, and self-absorption gets even more widespread, it just makes sense to establish a popular, trusted, comprehensive space that makes it easy for people to give confidently.

Perhaps I’m speaking too soon, and there’s something already out there? If so, I’d definitely like to hear about it. If not, I hope we see one soon.

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