A woman and man sit in front of a couch while looking and smiling at a laptop that the woman is holding.
A woman and man sit in front of a couch while looking and smiling at a laptop that the woman is holding.
Financial Health
December 17, 2019

Giving back: How to pick a charity and donate with confidence

Follow these tips for choosing and securely donating to a charitable organization.

With the holiday season in full swing and the end of the year approaching, it is common for people to give to at least one charity in honor of someone or to make an annual donation. According to ImpactMatters, which rates nonprofits, Americans donate $400 billion a year to 1.6 million nonprofits in the U.S. With so many charitable organizations and online websites to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which organization to make a financial gift to — and make sure the donation is making an impact.

Lynne Walters
Lynne Walters

“Especially during this season of giving, our hearts want to help those in need,” said Lynne Walters, head of Shared Services for Wells Fargo Corporate Philanthropy and Community Relations, who is responsible for the operations behind the company’s grant making. “However, it’s also the time of year when we can inadvertently fall victim to scams. While most charitable organizations are responsible stewards of financial gifts, a little research can ensure your money is going to the cause you intend to support.”

Walters provided several tips for donating to a charitable organization:

Volunteer for the organization before making a financial contribution. “The best way to pick an organization is to see it firsthand by volunteering and talking to the staff to see how donations are spent,” Walters said. “Most charitable organizations rely on volunteers. When you volunteer, you see where and how the organization uses your money: the programs and services it provides, the types of outcomes is strives for, and its overall community impact.”

Review the organization’s website before making a donation — paying particular attention to its mission, goals, impact numbers, and financial statement in its annual report. “You can really see what the organization is focused on and how much of an impact they’re making by doing this basic research. It’s also very telling when an organization shares metrics and outcomes on their site, versus only sharing a mission statement and programs,” Walters said.

Verify the charity’s nonprofit status and ratings using credible vetting sources like Charity Navigator or GuideStar. On these sites, you can search for information about the charity, including their financial information, board of directors, and overall transparency, before donating.

Tap into United Way Worldwide, an organization Wells Fargo has supported since the 1800s. United Way provides its own guide to charitable giving, as well as information about local services, volunteer opportunities, and ways to donate to organizations — including those right in your own backyard.

Understand charitable donations if you’d like to receive a tax deduction for your donation. The IRS has tips for claiming tax deductions after making a charitable contribution.

“When you’re giving your time and money, you want to feel good about the cause you’ve designated, but also confident that your funds are being put to use responsibly,” Walters said. “We are proud of the commitment and impact Wells Fargo team members, customers, and charitable organizations we support have made in our communities throughout the year. We hope everyone has a safe and rewarding experience helping others.”