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Carrington College Blog

Volunteering or Donating? Choose Your Non-Profit Wisely

November 7, 2014

Collecting Food for the NeedyHalloween has come and gone which means one thing; the 2014 Holiday season is underway. It’s a time for giving, but that’s not just giving gifts to friends and family. Americans tend to become more charitable at this time of year, donating or volunteering to help those less fortunate.

In fact, the average American makes 24% of their annual donations* between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and the average donation amount is higher during the Holiday Season**.

But do you research where your donations go?

‘Think Before You Pink’ Makes Us Think

The Think Before You Pink campaign was created as a response to the endless pink ribbon products/promotions that appear every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign wants greater transparency from companies that participate in breast cancer fundraising, and it wants us to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions. You can often make a more significant difference by contributing directly to a local, well-researched charity, than buying a ‘pink’ or ‘affiliated’ product.

But you should ask questions of the organizations you support any time of year. Did you know there are websites, such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar, that research all the information they can find on nonprofits? They look for information on a nonprofit’s programs, mission, legitimacy, reputation, finances and so on. Information that enables us to make better decisions.

Do Your Research

If you’re thinking of getting involved with a charity you don’t know, do your research first. Try to find answers to questions like these to ensure your money/time is well used.

  1. Does the charity actually do the things it tells you about in its marketing? Check that it dedicates both money and staff time in ways that align with its mission.
  2. Charities have to report their largest programs, and the funding allocated to them. Make sure the funding reported is consistent with the charity’s priorities on their website.
  3. Does the charity clearly explain the problem that it intends to address? Do their claims and results seem reasonable to you?
  4. Does the charity receive feedback from the people it serves? Look to see if there is any sign that the organization collects and publishes feedback from those it helps.

You should be able to find most of these answers on their website, or by using one of the research sites above, or if you’re really serious, give them a call.

Most of us volunteer or donate because we want to make a real difference to the lives of people in our local community, or to the lives of those dealing with an illness or situation that is really close to our hearts. By doing your research you may find that the valuable time or money you donate will have more of a direct impact in your community or on the cause you care about.

Volunteering Looks Great On Your Résumé

Volunteer For The HolidaysVolunteering is one of the easiest ways to get real world experience in your field, and recruiters tend to look favorably on those with volunteering on their résumé. It also proves to potential employers that you think of others, while volunteering in your field allows you to make contacts and meet potential employers. If you’re looking to volunteer, here are a few ideas for you to investigate locally:

  • Get together with classmates and sponsor local a family in need
  • Find an organization that helps the local homeless
  • Deliver meals
  • Volunteer for Veterans
  • Visit a senior
  • Help out an animal shelter


* Research from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University –

** Statistic from Network for Good.