Many of us choose to make donations in memory of our loved ones and those of our friends, colleagues, family members and neighbors. I made one just today in the memory of a friend’s mom. The donation was easy; the death announcement indicated where donations should be made, and I went online and made the payment.

But when making these donations, do we know exactly who is getting the money and how it is being used? And whether or not this organization or cause is in line with our beliefs? Should that even matter?

I did not always worry about the recipient organizations. In fact, I was a staunch advocate in donating to exactly the organization the family selected. In the past I have donated to unfamiliar hospitals and houses of worship. But not anymore.

The recent scandal of the four cancer charities that fraudulently used millions of donated dollars for their own personal use has made me wary of any organization for which I am unacquainted. I now take the time to research organizations before donating money.

Here’s how I recently chose a charitable organization to remember my father on the anniversary of his death. My dad was a World War II veteran and I wanted to locate a military-related charity that would help veterans and their families. My goal was to find a charity that allocated over 85 percent of their donations to the cause being supported and with less than 10 percent spent on administrative expenses.

  1. I first accessed Charity Navigator (Charity Watch and BB Wise Giving Alliance are two other free online charitable search websites) to learn how efficiently a military charitable organization would be using my donation. I was overwhelmed with the number of military organizations that my search identified. Clearly my search criteria term was too wide.
  2. Next I did an Internet search using “nonprofit organizations supporting military veterans” as my criteria. I found a list of the “Top 10 charities that support veterans” from a national media source.
  3. From this top 10 list I was able to research the organizations using Charity Navigator and BB Wise Giving Alliance to discover the financials. Just how much of my donation would go to the cause and how much to expenses?
  4. I found two organizations that had wonderful missions, with over 91 percent of their donations going to their causes. The organizations are helping veterans and their families; one with housing and one with educational scholarships. These were two values I knew my father endorsed, and I decided to donate to both.

I think it is a caring gesture for both ourselves and the bereaved to honor someone’s memory with a donation. Just be wise in the organizations you choose.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Photo via Moneyphotopin (license)

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