Identify & Research Organizations. Once you’ve narrowed down the general area(s) where you want to concentrate your giving, start to research the organizations where you think you want to donate.
Ask around. Check with friends and relatives you trust and get recommendations about organizations they support and then dig a little deeper.
Visit the organization’s website to read about their stated mission, programs, and community activities. For example, because I am a pit bull advocate, I always check for the following: does the rescue or organization list pit bull type dogs under “adoptable dogs”?; do they have a strong commitment to reducing euthanasia rates for healthy, adoptable pets?; do they have an active TNR (trap, neuter, release) program for feral cats?, etc. In short, I make sure that the organization’s goals and stated mission are in line with my values.
Check the organization’s standing on Guide Star where you can see income, assets, mission statements and ratings. If an organization is either not listed or is listed but with little information, follow up with direct questions to the organization.
Keep in mind that some organizations are quite large and may have several programs that you like and others about which you are less enthusiastic. You can direct your donations to a specific project or program that you want to support.
If an organization refuses to answer questions, pressures you for a donation or anything feels off, walk away. There are plenty of reputable nonprofit organizations for you to support. Similarly, if you’ve heard anything in the media that might call the organization’s practices into question, such as PeTA, pay attention, ask questions and research more and walk away if there are any inconsistencies.