Why Do Charity Watchdog Groups Matter?

Written by CarrieAnn Grayson, M.Ed, US Army Veteran and Marketing Coordinator for Project Sanctuary.

We’ve all seen it – tables and banners staged outside of big box stores asking you to support their organizations. (And by “support,” I mean donating money.) Two things happen at this moment when you dart across the parking lot: you either avoid eye contact and say “sorry,” or you reach in your pocket and donate whatever change you might have left over from your morning coffee. At that time and moment, there is no research done as to whether or not this is even a legit nonprofit. Do you know where their money goes? In most cases, probably not.

In the U.S. as a whole, we tend to give people the benefit of the doubt when they ask us to support worthy causes that vary from children to puppies to the environment to veterans. Most 501(c)3 nonprofits seem to have a great story of changing a life for the better. So why wouldn’t you just hand over whatever cash you had available?

We’re leery (hopefully!) when we get an email asking us to send money orders to an address in a foreign country because X service member can’t get out of the country without it. We’re leery when someone knocks on our door, claiming to be from the local school and requesting funding for a field trip for children. Why aren’t we just as cautious when someone sends an email or calls us, asking for money for a local or even national nonprofit? Because we trust people who have knowledge in a cause close to our hearts.

Believe it or not, not every organization is transparent about where their money goes. (Insert gasp and jaw drop here.) According to a Huffington Post article, most nonprofit frauds are exposed with simple math. It really does just come down to math. Organizations you donate to should be financially transparent. It’s okay to ask, “where is the money coming from, and where is it going?”

With over 40,000 charities that have military-related missions, there is a high risk for money mismanagement. One way to see how nonprofits are functioning is through charity watchdog groups. These groups can help you decipher how the $2.5 billion of donations each year are being managed within these military charities. Charity Navigator is one watchdog group that rates these nonprofits based on their financial responsibility. Proudly, Project Sanctuary has the highest rating available from Charity Navigator.

Another charity watchdog group is GuideStar. Recently, Project Sanctuary received GuideStar’s highest level of recognition, the “Platinum Seal of Transparency.” Our GuideStar profile lists specifics for our programs, financials, and operations.

We are transparent about our operations and our financials and hope whichever charity you choose to support is as well. Research them, and find out how they spend their money. Does it all go to fundraising? Is it mostly overhead? How much actually goes back to mission? It’s important to be confident about the social investment of your donations. If you’re unable to find financial information on the websites of charities you support, check their profiles on Charity Navigator and Guidestar. Both can help you verify financial responsibility and give you peace of mind.

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