5 Essential Questions to Ask a Nonprofit Organization Before Donating

What are the questions to ask a nonprofit organization? Should you be overly cautious when trying to figure out how to know if a charity is legit?

The ins and outs of choosing a nonprofit organization to donate to can be a daunting process. There are so many things to think about when assessing charity effectiveness—from the population they serve to how the money is spent. We think it’s important that you think before you donate in 2020, and understand why No Barriers works hard every single day to be good stewards of donations to maximize our mission. 

It is helpful to think through specific questions and topics to understand more about a charity before donating. Your donation is more than a vote of confidence: It’s something that helps keep nonprofits alive. Financial support is essential to nonprofits because donations are what keep them running—and their mission at the forefront. 

Read on to learn the five essential questions to ask a nonprofit organization before donating (and why we humbly hope you consider No Barriers as a future recipient!).

questions to ask a nonprofit organization before donating

Photo Credit: Didrik Johnck / No Barriers.

How to check out a charity before you donate

When checking out an organization, their website is a great place to start. On their website, you should be able to easily locate 1) their mission (most important!) and 2) their basic history, such as how long they have been running, the population they serve, and the programs that they have.  

A mission statement should answer the question of why this organization exists and what they hope to accomplish. A vision statement should look into the future of the organization and state a long term goal they hope to accomplish or a problem they are continually working to fix. These two statements can give you a great feel for the heart of the organization.  

Now that you know their why, it’s time to think harder about their how and the what. What is the organization doing to maximize its charity effectiveness? Do they offer programs? Educational support? DIrect support? Knowing how they accomplish their mission, through which avenues, is of utmost importance. 

Ultimately, transparency is what to look for in a charity.

Want to sleuth IRL? Another great way to learn more about an organization is to directly interact with their staff and other volunteers. Whether that is through volunteering or just calling to get more information, you can often get a feel for the organization through the people who are a part of it.  Key questions to ask a nonprofit organization Without further ado, here’s our shortlist of questions to ask charity organizations to get you started on your due diligence.

kelsey walsh no barriers 

1. How long have you been around and how did you get started?

Although this information can often be found on their website, it is an important question to get answered. Often times, the start of the organization says a lot about who they are and what their mission is. The length of time that they have been around can also be a testament to their success in making a difference in their community. 

The No Barriers USA that you know today has been around since 2011, but there’s a long history before that. No Barriers came to be what it is today through combining with another organization named Global Explorers. Both organizations had similar goals and when their paths crossed, they realized how much greater their impact could be if they combined forces. You can read the whole story here

2. Who exactly/what services will my money go to?

Having transparency in exactly where your charitable donations will go can help set you at ease about donating to that cause. If you have a strong pull to a certain program that organization runs, chances are high that you can be sure that your donation will go directly to supporting that program. It is important to clarify this with them before donating. 

81¢ of every dollar you give goes directly to support No Barriers programs. 

Have a particular population or project in mind that you want to support? Make sure the nonprofit is aware of your donor goals. For instance, when you donate to No Barriers, you can specify which area of our organization you would like your donation to support. If you would prefer not to support the organization’s overhead, make sure you can specify your donation destination.

3. Can I see a previous annual review?

no barriers annual report

An annual review can give you insight as to what a nonprofit has been doing within the past year and to get a grasp on their impact in the community. Oftentimes, organizations use their annual report to thank their donors and volunteers for all they have accomplished together. This is a tool for nonprofits to make the case for all the good they are doing—and why you should donate your money to them!

Annual reports also give a breakdown of their finances, such as the money they gave to each program, which can help you decipher which program you would like your money to go to. 

On our end, we post our annual report on our website (it can be found here). Find our finances from the previous year, trips taken, number of people served through various programs, and many more outstanding facts. Watching our impact grow with donor support has been beautiful!

4. Can I donate to your organization in other ways than just money?

Although money is a necessity to keep a nonprofit running, there are often many other ways to support an organization that are non-monetary. For example, many nonprofits host multiple events throughout the year that need volunteers to help, as well as material donations (supplies, paper mailers, more!). Whether you donate time or money (or both, you generous soul!), it is helpful to know what else the organization needs so that you can support them in different ways.

questions to ask a nonprofit organization before donating your time

You can support nonprofits by volunteering your time at their events! Photo Credit: Emma Keehan / No Barriers

At No Barriers, volunteers are always needed and welcomed with open arms. No Barriers offers a great list of things to do right now to get involved and start living the No Barriers Life.

5. What sets you apart from other organizations in your community? From other organizations with similar missions?

While it’s great to have many different charitable organizations helping the community, but it is also essential that they all serve the community in a different way. Many organizations work closely with others in their area to make sure that they are meeting the needs of the community together rather than competing against each other. It is important to know that the organization you are considering supporting is bettering the community in an effective, efficient way (with few overlaps).

Beyond your immediate community, think about lateral organizations with similar missions to the nonprofit you’re checking out. You might find that different organizations’ approaches seem more or less effective to you. Pull these assessments into your overall calculus.

6. Bonus: Anything else you’d like to know!

What to look for in a charity isn’t necessarily formulaic. If you have specific questions that you’d like to ask, go for it! There’s no right or wrong way to assess charity effectiveness, and the deeper you dive, the more you’re likely to unveil new questions. Get those answers—you deserve them.

questions to ask a nonprofit organization before donating

Photo Credit: Didrik Johnck / No Barriers

Think before you donate in 2020 with these questions to ask a nonprofit organization

No Barriers was founded on a simple principle: Those who care about one another’s ability to contribute their best to the world can accomplish more by working together than by working apart. From wounded veterans returning home and high school students looking to their future without inspiration or opportunity, to families facing life-changing challenges and caregivers struggling to feel whole, our community extends far and wide. 

When thinking through questions to ask a nonprofit organization, it is important to be aware of any red flags that come up—whether you think the organization is not being transparent about their mission or that the population being served is not benefiting as much as it could be. This process may take time and that is ok (in fact, some may argue it should—being diligent with your donation dollars can only help everyone in the long run). 

questions to ask a nonprofit organization before donating

Photo Credit: Emma Keehan / No Barriers

Now that you know how to check out a charity before you donate, we invite you to join the thousands of others who support No Barriers USA. Thanks to the support from volunteers and donors, No Barriers has been able to unleash the human potential of various populations through experiences, tools, programs, and inspiration. 

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January 30, 2020
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