Saturday, September 8, 2007

Check-out That Charity!

As I mentioned earlier this week a clutter Exit Strategy will often involve donating your no-longer-needed items to a non-profit or charitable organization. In this entry, I will discuss a couple of tools available to help you learn more about the organization to whom may have chosen to donate your stuff. They will help you to determine
  • whether an organization is a legitimate non-profit or charitable operation
  • an organization's particular mission and the communities or constituencies it serves
  • an organization's tax-exempt status (useful, if you would like your donation to be tax deductible)
  • if any complaints have been filed against an organization and whether they were satisfactorily resolved

Two of the tools that I have previously used are GuideStar and the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance at


GuideStar is a comprehensive source of information regarding organizations operating within the non-profit sector. Their database includes information on hundreds of thousands of charitable and non-profit organizations across the country. Note: Some of the information in a organization's profile is only available with a premium access subscription, but what is freely available should be more than sufficient for the purposes identified above.

At the search page just type the name of the organization you are looking up into the search field and click the search button. A list of possible organizations from which to choose will be displayed. There are also classification codes (the NTEE Classification System) that you can search by, if you want to pinpoint organizations involved in specific types of activities (e.g. youth, the environment, the arts, etc.) For a more complete listing of those codes visit NCCS.

Anyway, click a link to see additional information. Be forewarned that you will need to register with GuideStar in order to click through to this basic record! Yes, this is a little inconvenient, but registration is free and is much less inconvenient than finding out later that those clothes you realized you were never going to wear again didn't end up getting to other people who could really use them.

Once you have registered and logged in, a free, basic search will yield the following types of information:

  • the organization's name and address
  • a contact person along with a telephone and fax number (email address info in the profile is, unfortunately, only part of premium access. . .)
  • a website if available (. . .however you may be able to pick that up here)
  • a brief description of the organization and its goals
  • the type of tax-exempt status an organization has (there are nearly 40 categories!) and whether contributions to the organization are deductible, as provided by law
  • whether they are required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ with the IRS and if available, links to .PDFs of those previously filed
  • when the organization's GuideStar profile was last updated
  • whether an organization makes its audited financial statements available to the public
Other information included in the basic profile if available and which might be of interest is

  • year founded
  • location(s) served
  • additional detailed information about an organization's programs and achievements
For additional tips and information to keep in mind when investigating a charity see GuideStar for Donors.

Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance also provides information to help you evaluate a charity. Additionally, they maintain a list of organizations that solicit funds on a national basis (the National Charity Reports Index) with links to reports evaluating them in terms of the BBB's voluntary charity standards. To find information regarding regional or local charities, you will need to visit the corresponding BBB for that region or locale. Go to the BBB Look-up page.

Now you will be better able to make an informed decision about choosing a new home for your stuff.

Happy Giving!

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