How to pick the perfect charity - our top 5 tips
Updated: Oct 26
Picking the perfect charity can be hard. With so many great causes to choose from, it can be confusing and stressful to decide where best to direct your good will.
The truth is, there is no perfect charity to support. There are heaps of great charities doing amazing things. What's most important is to not let decision paralysis get the best of you where you can't pick one to support, so you pick none at all. And don't get caught up thinking the only way to contribute is financially. There are plenty of ways to get involved with charity work.
So how do you know which is the perfect charity for you? Keep reading for our top tips!
Our top 5 tips for picking your perfect charity
1. Finding a cause that's meaningful to you
The easiest way to begin narrowing down your giving choices is to look for charities that give back and tackle inequality in domains that you care deeply about. Consider your personal interests and the aspects of society you are passionate about. It may be easy to automatically default to the large, well-known organisations, but a quick search online is well worth your time to find a cause that more specifically addresses the issues you feel connected to.
If you're looking for inspiration you can always use resources such as the 'Search for a charity' tool on the ACNC website that allows you filter the registered charities in Australia by who the charity helps.
2. Picking a registered charity (and protecting yourself from scams)
Speaking of the ACNC, it is important to ensure that the charity you are looking to support is registered with a verified governing body such as the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). The ACNC lets you verify that a charity is a legitimate organisation with obligations to a national regulatory body, and is essentially a way to help reduce the risk of scams.
Other registrations to consider looking out for are the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) and the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), which regulates charities that provide aid overseas. However, it's important to note that registration with the ACNC is the most important of the bunch.
3. Deciding whether you want to donate time or money
The next thing to look out for when picking a charity you want to support, is finding one that has an avenue for involvement that you are willing to participate in.
Donating money is not the only option available to helping support charities. There are plenty of ways to get involved! From volunteering your time or skills, to helping organise events and fundraisers, or even just doing what you can to help spread the word, most charity websites will advertise all the ways you can help. And if you can't find it online but have an idea of how you'd like to get involved, don't be afraid to reach out. Most charities are willing and open to any kind of involvement that help them to advance their cause.
If you were looking to donate money as your main form of contribution, you might also want to look out for the charity's deductible gift receipt (DGR) status, to ensure that any donations over $2 you are making, are tax deductible.
4. Understanding where your money goes (and is it better to pick a charity that gives more directly to its projects?)
One of the biggest concerns most potential donors have is understanding how much of the money they're donating is actually going to be given to the projects of the charity versus how much is taken by the charitable organisation for such things as administration and employee costs.
If the charity you are looking at is registered with the ACNC, you will be able to see a top-level breakdown of the income and expenditure of the charity each year, which will give you a fair idea of the primary areas the charity is spending. However, as the ACNC says:
"The main problem with using administrative costs to inform decisions about which charities to support is that the information is an unreliable indicator of the extent to which actual donations make a difference in the community...Some charities make a real difference in the community and have relatively high administration costs, and some charities may be less effective but have low administration costs."
For instance, some charities may have higher costs of rent depending on the city in which their headquarters are located. Other charities may spend more money than others on research, data and analytics to help guide their work, which in the end, may lead to better outcomes.
Having a fair idea of the breakdown can help with your understanding of the cost of running vs project supporting ratio, but more important than that, is determining the efficacy of the charity's work. 5. Determining efficacy (is the money and time your donating actually making a difference?) Our final tip for choosing your perfect charity is to look out for the signs that the time, money and effort you are donating is going to a cause that actually makes a difference. A look through company websites and profiles will give you a good idea of the projects they have worked on and the impact they have had. Sometimes even a Google search of the charity will help bring up articles or other websites referencing the work of the charity, that can help with this information. Choose a charity that demonstrates effective programs that have a real impact on the people or issues they are trying to help.
For example, you can watch this video or find out more here about the projects Gennarosity Abroad support and the difference they have made. At the end of the day, whether you only have the capacity to support one charity or if you have the opportunity to support many, no matter how big or small your support, your good will is not wasted. After all, it is the sum of small efforts that make up the whole.