Donating to a charity should be an informed decision, not a guess.

Giving Tuesday marks the advent of the season of giving in America.  Most of us will be inundated with appeals from charities for donations. I can hear the groans now – my mailbox is full! Yet most of us truly want to be philanthropic: we want to leave our mark and have a positive impact on the world around us. We want to make a difference.

So, how do you decide which charities to support? And how can you be sure your gift will be put to good use? These are not new questions.  Nurith Aizenman tackled this question last fall in a segment that aired on Morning Edition, Choosing a Charity: Should You Go With Your Heart or Your Head?

First, the heart part: consider how well the charity aligns with your personal experiences, beliefs and goals.  What are you passionate about? Education, health care, basic human needs, human rights, animals? If you aren’t moved by a specific cause, think about your community and seek out local nonprofits.

Now, the head part: how do you know if a nonprofit will be a good steward of your investment? There are two major independent charity evaluators that provide free ratings information: Charity Navigator and Guidestar. Each has their own proprietary rating formula, but both of their websites will give you the chance to review charity’s IRS 990 form so you can verify that they are a tax-exempt organization. They will also provide information about how much of a nonprofit’s budget gets allocated to programs, vs. administrative and fundraising expenses, so you know where your dollars are going.

Once you think you’ve found the right charity to support, make your donation and see how the charity responds. Are you thanked promptly? Does the charity keep you informed about the impact of your gift? If you feel good about your gift, you’ve found the right organization to support.

We’re proud to announce that Habitat Bucks has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator – the highest rating – two years in a row. There are more than 1.5 million American charities, and only 28% of those that are evaluated by Charity Navigator have received at least 2 consecutive 4-star ratings; this indicates that we’re outperforming most other US charities.  This is their highest possible rating, and attests that Habitat Bucks adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way. There are 108 families in Habitat Bucks homes and another 50 homeowners who partnered with us for home safety and repairs. With your help we are building strength, stability and self-reliance.

Here’s how you can support Habitat Bucks.