Following Up on Donations

Stay in touch with the charities you support

You've done your research, made up your mind which charity will receive your donation and written the check. For many philanthropists, that's where the communication ends. But it shouldn't be. Instead, after a couple of months, you should contact the administrators of the charity to find out how they used your funds, especially if you are supporting disaster relief efforts.

Disaster relief tends to produce a lot of fly-by-night operators who aren't equipped to handle major efforts like Hurricane Katrina. Most likely, your funds will go to waste. In situations like this, it's best to support organizations like the Red Cross, which will get the job done on the ground. You've worked hard in terms of both earning the money to make the donation and researching the causes you have chosen to support. The least you can do is stay involved.

Try to think of following up as shareholder activism. Sure, you don't have an actual vote in the charity, but you are a stakeholder, and all nonprofits have a responsibility to those who support them. Successful charities will welcome your involvement in their organization because they know that happy volunteers and benefactors allow them to do more. Besides, the more contact you have with your charity of choice, the greater the satisfaction you'll feel.

Philanthropic industry experts have written a donor bill of rights that includes some of the following principles:

  • Charities must inform donors of the organization's mission. They also must show how they intend to spend the funds and whether they have the ability to use those donations in an effective manner.
  • The names of those who serve on the governing board should be publicly available to all donors.
  • The most recent financial statements of the organization must be accessible to all donors.
  • Charities must use the funds for the purposes that the donors gave the funds.
  • Donors deserve recognition for their gifts.
  • All donation information is strictly confidential.
  • Any solicitation of donors should identify who is making the solicitation: a volunteer, employee of the charity or hired marketer.
  • Donors must have the opportunity to remove their names from any mailing lists that the charity shares with others.
  • Organizations must answer any questions donors have in a timely and truthful fashion.

Charitable organizations that are reputable understand and respect the donors' bill of rights. Without the trust and respect of donors, donations will disappear. Don't be afraid to follow up on your donation. Charities expect and hope that you will.

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