You can wisely choose causes with the potential to do the most good in the middle of this humanitarian crisis by giving with your head as well as your heart. Here are the five guidelines I follow in my own giving decisions:
A useful shortcut is to look for organizations that have been vetted by others. I tried a simple keyword search “Ukraine charities,” and that was enough to turn up some promising lists posted by media outlets.
A good place to start your sleuthing on US-based registered charities is the Internal Revenue Service. It also ensures you’re giving to the right group, rather than another organization with a deceptively similar name. Many scammers abuse the name recognition of established nonprofits, hoping you won’t notice the difference.
3) Give to charities with a track record in Ukraine
Some examples include Razom for Ukraine, which leads a variety of cultural and democratization initiatives. Another is UNICEF, a United Nations agency that protects children worldwide and is in a good position not only to provide immediate relief but also to pressure Russia to allow unrestricted humanitarian access. Because these groups have already built local relationships, trust and infrastructure, they are likely to be more adept at operating in these dire circumstances than the charities popping up now or those that are still mobilizing from half a world away.
A lot of guidance about what makes charities good or bad to support can be misleading.
One common piece of advice I recommend you ignore is that donors should always support charities that spend as little money as possible on their overhead costs – things like rent and administrative pay.
Even leading charity rating and assessment sites, such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, continue to rely in part on the outdated assumption that nonprofits with low overhead spending are automatically more efficient and let donors’ dollars stretch further.
Some charity-evaluation websites do provide valuable information. Charity Navigator has a helpful “advisory” page that alerts donors about nonprofit misconduct. But to research US charities supporting the Ukraine crisis, I recommend Candid, formerly known as Guidestar. It evaluates charities on the basis of broader performance metrics, such as transparency, good governance practices and outcomes.
A better signal of effectiveness than low overhead will be a responsive organization with real humans who are ready to answer your questions. It should also have a track record of working well with others and clearly communicates how it spends donors’ dollars.
Groups worth supporting are also likely to emphasize their results in their annual reports and other materials. Especially if you intend to make a big gift, you may find that the charity’s 990 forms – paperwork the IRS requires – contain a lot of useful information.