By Carrie Lowrance, Crosswalk.com
There are many Christian organizations worldwide that do amazing things, from providing Bibles to people in third-world countries, to building wells, to providing health care in countries where there is none. Organizations abound everywhere, and all need financial support to keep their mission going. As a Christian, how do you discern which organizations to support financially?
Decide How Many Organizations You Want to Support a Month and How Much You Can Give
The first thing you need to do is decide how much money you can give a month. This means you need to go over your budget and find an amount that is reasonable for you. Once you decide on this amount, you can decide if you want to support one organization with one donation a month or break it up into allocations for two or three organizations.
Next, think about your own life and the trials and adversities that you have gone through. Our personal journeys shape and open our hearts and open our eyes to the pain of others. Maybe you were homeless for a time or grew up in a household with food insecurity, or had to leave a "bad situation." Look for organizations that resonate with you and align with the Bible's teachings.
Do Your Research.
1. How Far Do You Want to Go?
The next thing you should decide is how far you want to reach. Do you want to support local organizations? Do you want to support organizations that go all around the United States and help people? Or do you want to support organizations that reach all the way to other parts of the world? Ask yourself, do I want to help my neighborhood, the nation, or the world?
2. Do You Want to Give Individually or as a Group?
Many organizations work in different ways. With some, you can give individually, and with others, you go in and give as a group. You could also get your own group together of friends or family who have an interest in donating to the same charity and give together as a group.
3. Take a Close Look at Your Giving Portfolio
Make a list of categories that you want to support (providing drinking water, helping the homeless, providing food) and another list of geographical areas. Then decide how you want to distribute your giving.
It's easy to get caught up and want to help every category on the list, but this can lead to a disconnect to your meaningful giving. Instead, choose two to three categories and add them to your prayer list. This way, you won't forget to give or pray for their cause.
4. Research Transparency and Accountability
Go on the organization's website and look around. You should be able to find a list of people in leadership and on the board. These lists should be separate so as not to interfere with accountability. Does the board meet regularly? This is important because these are the people who are the shareholders and ensure that the money given goes toward the mission's success.
For example, I follow an amazing cat rescue called Maddox and Friends Cat Rescue in Ohio. They take in cats who have needs and injuries that most other rescues won't. What I love about them is that every time they pay off a bill, they post the receipt from the vet clinic they use, therefore being transparent so donors know where their money is going. I love how honest and transparent they are.
Another thing to look for is if the organization posts its mission statement and it is clear. Can you find financial information and impact reports? If an organization doesn't share these things, it could be a sign of deeper problems.
5. Check the Organization' Credibility
There are several sites you can use to do this. You can use The Better Business Bureau Give.org. They use 20 standards to evaluate an organization. ECFA-accredited ministries commit to the standard of integrity and accountability to the Lord. Look and see if your organization is on their list; if they aren't, find out why. Charity Navigator is another site that can be helpful.
Even though these sites are helpful, they aren't able to check every single organization out there. If your organization isn't on the list of one of these sites, it doesn't mean they are bad or anything is wrong; you may just need to dig a little deeper.
6. Talk to People about Results
Select a few similar organizations working on the problem you want to solve and talk to their people. Ask the volunteers about their experiences and pay attention to what they say. Since they are giving their time, you will hear some genuine responses. Talk to the leadership and ask to see things like financial audits, up-to-date plans with specific goals, and ask what those deadlines are. You also want to understand if the organization currently needs funding or just has an appealing marketing campaign. All these things will help you understand if this is the right organization to give to.
7. Volunteer or Get Involved
If the organization you are looking into has local branches, volunteer and get involved. Volunteering and getting involved is a great way for you to know people, get a feel for the organization, and see how it is run in real life. You will experience both the negative and positive aspects and get a much better idea if it is the right organization to support with your time and finances.
8. Read Reviews
Look up the charities you want to support and read the reviews with an unbiased eye. You will likely see a mix of good, bad, and meh. After reading those reviews, move on to the above sites and read their content. This will help you get a balanced perspective.
9. Ask Friends or Family Who They Support
In the beginning, you'll be researching which organizations you want to support. Asking friends and family where they did their giving is a great way to get ideas rolling. They may even give you some insight if they have been giving to a certain cause for years and have had no issues.
10. Ask Questions
After doing research, if you are still unsure about something, call or email the organization and ask.
11. Pray about It
You should pray in the beginning for God to lead you to the right organizations to support you and pray afterward when you have made your decision. This is not a process to rush, so you want to take some time and try to discern what God is telling you. He will lead you in the right direction.
Choosing the right organizations to support is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, do your research, reach out with questions, and pray about it. With God leading you and having an open heart and fist, you can't go wrong.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.