Is the cause you wish to support worthy of your donation?
With so many charities out there with so many worthwhile causes, how do we determine which ones to support? That is a very personal question and the answer will differ from one person to another. Of course, there are a few standards that should be applied when we ask ourselves this questions.
Do you feel strongly about the mission of the organization in question? Is the mission clear? At A Warmer Day, our mission is to provide coats and other winter apparel to underprivileged children and families. We feel this mission statement is clear and to the point, leaving very little question about who we are and what we do. Some people are very passionate about our cause, others may not be and that is ok. Everyone should look to support a cause that they feel is important. There are many worthwhile causes and organizations. Choose the one (or ones) that is right for you.
Do I know how my contribution will be used? This is one that is personally very important to me and one of the reasons we founded A Warmer Day. While some charities out there allocate a large percentage of their contributions to their mission, others have large payrolls that consume a great deal of their financial resources. While it is understandable that larger organizations will have some payroll, in my opinion some of them are paying salaries, especially for their leadership, that are unreasonable and sometimes millions of dollars annually. I feel that money would be better spent on their stated mission and not to a CEO or President. At A Warmer Day, we have no payroll at all and instead rely on our team of volunteers. There may come a time when we will need to hire someone to help us in our administrative tasks or to pick up donations, but we will never employ a CEO with an exorbitant salary. Our mission will always come first. When you choose which organizations to support, a quick google search will often reveal how they allocate their funds.
A Warmer Day is very committed to transparency and for that reason, we post all of our important financial documents right here on our website. Anyone can view our financials, by-laws, board meeting agendas and many other relevant documents on our site. We do this so that anyone who supports us or is considering supporting us can easily see where our funds are allocated. For the most part, when we make financial decisions it is for one of three reasons. Funds are allocated directly toward our mission such as the purchase of coats or supplies for distributions, printed flyers and marketing material for coat drives to encourage people to donate clothing or items such as fuel for our distribution truck etc. We also allocate funds for routine operating costs such as insurance, paper and other office supplies, marketing and other administrative costs though we try to keep those cost to a minimum. Finally we allocate funds toward events and fundraisers. Those expenditures are meant to raise funds for our mission or in some cases raise public awareness so that we can grow our base of supporters and in turn, grow the organization. By doing so, we increase our ability to help those in who need our services. At this time, there are far more people in need than we can serve. It is our goal to grow the organization to meet the need.
Another consideration is whether the beliefs and practices of the organization (outside of the mission) are in alignment with your own. Many organizations have a core mission that might sound like something you support but this is another situation where a quick search on google could reveal more. Some groups advertise a mission and certainly some of their resources will serve that mission however you may find that they also support political ideals, groups, candidates or parties that you do not. They may also serve religious organizations or beliefs that you may not support. A Warmer Day does not align with any political party or candidate nor do we support or oppose any political issues. While we are not a religious organization and do not require any set of beliefs of our leadership team, we do state in our by-laws that “While board members are not required to be Christian, you must possess and demonstrate Christian values including caring for others, compassion, honesty, integrity and generosity.” Of course, many religions teach these same values and many who do not prescribe to any religion possess them. Therefore our leadership roles are open to anyone who demonstrates these values regardless of how they learned them.
Finally, when choosing a cause to support you should confirm that they are in fact a legitimate organization. You can confirm this easily. If they are a Nebraska organization, you can check to ensure that they are recognized by searching the Secretary of State’s database here. If the organization is based in another state, most states have a similar search capability. You will also want to make sure that they are a recognized 501(c)(3) organization. This is a status awarded by the IRS and it means that the organization is tax exempt. As long as they are, your donations may be tax deductible. (consult with your tax professional who can advise you based on your personal situation) To determine if an organization is a recognized 501(c)(3), you can search the IRS database here. Of course, A Warmer Day is both an active Nebraska non-profit and a recognized 501(c)(3).
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when you decide whether to support a non-profit or charity. It really is a personal decision based on your own beliefs and values. We certainly hope that you will consider donating to A Warmer Day but if not, there are many worthwhile organizations and missions that also deserve your support. I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any questions or would like to know more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (402) 480-7463.
-Dave Conde, Founder & President of A Warmer Day