This is the time to be jolly and enjoy the upcoming holidays. And, this is the time when we write those end of the year checks to charities. Before you do, check your charity out a little, perhaps on www.charitynavigator.org (for large charities) or maybe by looking over their most recent IRS Form 990 (http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990finder/). Try to figure out how much of your donation might actually be used in charitable work. How much is paid to the executive director?
Here in Washington State, you may also check out a charity at the website for the Charities Program: http://www.sos.wa.gov/charities/DatabaseSearch.aspx For example, if you check out the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, this site tells us that “…this organization devoted 76% of its total expenses to program services…” for the period ending June 30, 2010. By contrast, the Seattle Foundation “…devoted 93% of its total expenses to program services…” in the most recent reporting period. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Tacoma group is not as efficient, but, armed with the information, you can ask questions and explore more to determine where you might want to send your check. The number for Mary Bridge Children’s Foundation is 81%. The number for Tacoma Goodwill Industries is 92%. For the Tacoma Rescue Mission, the number is 86%. If you look up the Emergency Food Network, you’ll see that their number is 98%. FISH Food Banks of Pierce County also comes in at 98%. Again, you want to do more homework on this and not rely exclusively on these particular numbers. Have a look at the IRS Form 990 to see all of the details on what is paid out and to whom, and ask questions. You want to be an informed donor. Now, don’t forget to send those checks out before the end of the year.