The Three Steps for Choosing a Nonprofit for Your Donation

Oct 12, 2022

It can be challenging to determine which nonprofit your giving circle should choose to donate funds to. Where can you find nonprofits that align best with the mission of your giving circle and what are the steps your group should take to choose one? We have some excellent expert advice and resources below to help your group choose a nonprofit and make an impact!

Value Setting

Before researching nonprofits, it can be helpful to align on the values and goals of your giving circle. During our panel discussion on identifying nonprofit partners, CEO of Giving Gap, Aisha Alexander-Young, advised the best way to intentionally identify the values of a giving circle:

Have the conversation together around…how you're allocating your dollars. What does it say about your morals, the communities you value, and whose leadership that you trust? And does that align with who you want to be as a person and who you all want to be as a giving body?

Aisha Alexander-Young, Giving Gap

Here are some questions for your leadership team or group members to answer in order to understand group values and be intentional about your giving:

  1. If you could leave a group “legacy” behind, what would that be?
  2. How does your group want to be remembered? What behaviors? What accomplishments?
  3. What key themes can you identify from these answers? Which are the most important?

Using the last question, distill your themes into a few words that will then become guiding values. Identify anywhere from 3 to 9 words that both you and your group feel best reflects you all, your purpose, and the impact you seek to make.

Being Mindful of Group Dynamics

Every giving circle is different and has a different culture and group dynamics. While some disagreements within the group around which cause areas to focus on and which organizations to fund may be inevitable, this is also part of the process of learning, expanding our perspectives, and exercising our collaborative spirit to make a bigger difference as a collective. Group leaders should strive to remind everyone of the common goal. Here’s what the founder of the giving circle Social4Good, Faith Boettger, had to say about leading a group of passionate individuals:

It’s leadership’s responsibility to create an organization that constantly delivers the message that every grant you award is winning and that by giving money to the nonprofits that you’ve selected, you’re making a difference and that you’re also raising visibility for those nonprofits that may not get funded.

Faith Boettger, Social4Good

Decide on Your Nonprofit

Now that you’ve defined your group values, the final step is for your giving circle to decide which nonprofit to donate to. Not sure where to find the right nonprofit for your giving circle?

Get out there in your community. Get to know the organizations that are doing the work… [what are people] saying about these organizations? Is that trust there? Have they been there historically?

Kelsey R. Barowich, Philanthropy Together

Beyond getting out into the community to find and learn about local organizations, you may want to do some online research to find organizations near you or beyond. Below are some resources to help you find good nonprofits doing great work across a range of issues and areas. You can see more in our Resource Center here.

Things to Keep in Mind When Reviewing Nonprofits

While going through the above resources, our panel of experts recommend thinking about the following:

I can’t underscore enough the importance of making sure organizations who are working on a particular cause or issue…have a leadership and staff who have experience in the issue they’re working on…we can’t speak to a solution for a problem if we’ve never had any direct experience in it.

Aisha Alexander-Young, Giving Gap

The one caveat I will say about doing online research is: sometimes the organizations that are doing the best work, they’re not going to have that clean-cut, jammy Instagram profile or website.

Kelsey R. Barowich, Philanthropy Together

Performance matters…you also have to figure out that the organization is actually achieving or moving in a direction towards what you’re seeking to have done. And so there are different ways of looking at that. It can be as simple as asking them what their mission statement is and then what’s their progress towards achieving their mission.

Michael Thatcher, Charity Navigator

Get out of your personal network…that could be doing local research, that could be also exploring funding funds that you trust or funds that are activist led or participatory led…get to know other organizations through that fund model.

Iara Peng, JustFund

Watch the entire recording of our panel Identifying nonprofit partners: What to consider when deciding who to fund below:

Identifying nonprofit partners: What to consider when deciding who to fund

If you’d like to learn more about the best practices when choosing a nonprofit to donate to, check out our guide to choosing nonprofits here.

If you’re not part of a giving circle yet, click below to join or start your giving circle on Grapevine today!