As we approach the end of the calendar year, you may be contemplating your charitable giving beyond your regular contributions throughout the year. With thousands of charities in Canada, it is important to approach your donations thoughtfully and strategically. I recommend the following tips for affirming your existing giving preferences or uncovering new opportunities.
By starting with a posture of prayer and listening, we acknowledge God’s guidance and invite him to direct our paths (Prov 3:6). Pay attention to how your heart responds to the charity’s mission as you spend time in prayer. You may be surprised by how God will move your heart toward the things that break his heart.
2. Explore the corporate values of the ministry.
Every charity has a mission, vision, values, and strategy, though they may present them differently. As you explore these aspects of a charity, consider whether they align with your personal values and the strategies you support. Investigate the charity’s accountability structure, which can include its board and committee composition, financial audits or reviews, and external verification processes. Finally, find out whether they have pursued any third-party accreditations, such as from CCCC – these organizations usually have public lists available of “accredited members”.
3. Review available financial statements and policies.
To make an informed decision about whether or not to give, examine a ministry’s annual report, descriptions of current activities, recent projects, financial statements, and T3010 information. While you won’t access all internal documents due to privacy issues, a reputable charity should exhibit a reasonable level of transparency. The Government of Canada makes public the organization’s annual filing (T3010). Keep in mind, numbers are just part of the story which is why I recommend reaching out to the charity.
Rather than quickly evaluating a charity based on one metric, look deeper to see how the organization measures its effectiveness, efficiency, and impact. Some measures will be more quantitative in nature and others qualitative. Some are focused on short-term goals while others may be engaged in work that will require a long-term investment before results are visible. Pay attention to how the organization evaluates itself and communicates this to supporters. It may be reflected in numbers, but it may also be presented in success stories or testimonials from those the ministry serves.
4. Talk to them.
Reach out to the charity’s representatives, whether volunteers or employees, to learn more about their ministry and have your questions answered. Direct communication can offer insights that might not be apparent through written materials alone. Finding out about the charity’s plans for the future can give you an idea of the charity’s growth and long-term commitment. Ask about upcoming projects and initiatives to see if those align with your interests and passions. For ministries structured less around projects and more around programs, inquire about the future goals for their programs.
5. Attend events and be aware of ongoing projects.
The ongoing projects and activities of a ministry organization demonstrate how current donations are being utilized and allocated today. Attending events hosted by the organization and reviewing its website/social media pages can help raise your understanding of how the organization demonstrates its effectiveness and impact. Some examples of things you can look out for include:
- How employees/volunteers interacted with attendees
- The evidence that those being served by the charity’s projects and programs have benefited
- What attention to detail was put into the event (this could be an indicator of how intentional and serious the charity takes its work)
- Are the charity’s priorities made clear by where the focus and attention is throughout the event
6. Get involved.
A natural next step, consider volunteering with the charity to gain firsthand experience of their ministry in action. This not only brings you closer to their work but also provides an opportunity to connect with others who share your passion for the charity’s cause.
7. Give once.
Before making a substantial donation, consider giving a smaller amount initially. This first gift will likely put you on the charity’s donor list and enable you to observe how they appreciate your support and communicate the impact it has. Pay attention to both the interaction with the organization and to how your heart responds – did they meet your expectations, are you still interested in engaging?
When it comes to choosing a charity to support in Canada, a thoughtful and prayerful approach combined with due diligence can help ensure that your donations make a meaningful impact. By following these tips, you can make well-informed decisions and support causes that align with your values and priorities.