Hello my difference making givers!
You've identified causes you care about, have an idea of how you want to make a difference, and now you'd like to find organizations that support your cause. Where will you start?
Wait, you don't have a cause yet? Or don't know how you want to get involved? Well my friend, you're in luck! You can catch up to the rest of us by getting your own Social Fingerprint Report. With that in hand, it's time to grab your virtual magnifying glass, and embark on the treasure hunt to unearth gems of organizations that align with your mission...
Before you begin scouring the internet, it might help to prepare a few things ahead of time. As you know, the more detailed your search query, the more specific your results should be. And if you've been using internet search for more than a few days, you'll also know that broad searches lead to big companies with big SEO budgets that will dominate the results of your search. While that could be great if you're looking for a big organization to support, there's also some fun in finding the smaller ones doing grass root work, perhaps stretching dollars a few extra miles.
A few things to consider and prepare:
What types of organizations are you looking for? Big ones, small ones, what might the annual budget be? Do you want one that's local, regional, or international? One with a large board and lots of governance, or a smaller more nimble group? Should it be an organization you're familiar with, one that's referred by a friend, or one that's completely new to you?
How will you want to support them? Are you planning on making a financial donation? How much? Do you want to choose how your philanthropic investment is spent? Do you want to visit or volunteer with the organization? Are you interested in serving on their board? if you have skills or strengths to bring, is it important that they are able to leverage these skills?
There are literally over 1,970,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States. The hard part shouldn't be finding one, it should be weeding out those that don't fit. For that, get clear on your criteria, it will help with the selection process.
Now, let's get to work finding new organizations and friends!
We'll start a little more obscure, then tackle the obvious...
1. Get creative on social media with a hashtag (#) search. Not familiar with that? No worries, that just tells me you are likely in my generation, the last that went through school without computers, social media, cell phones, or all the other things we take for granted as staples of life. You probably even did school projects be searching through the heavy set of Encyclopedias in the back room. We are an awesome generation, but a little slow compared to the native tech whippersnappers that are teaching us how to upload photos on IG. (But there's NO way they could program a VCR to record!) Anyway, back to hashtags...
Log into Twitter (er' X), Instagram, Facebook and search using a hashtag, or "#". A few I've used that have taken me down interesting org finding rabbit holes: #smallnonprofits, #localnonprofits, #localgiving, #communitygiving, #[insertyourcity]giving, #[yourcity]nonprofits, and so on. Get creative, you'll find events, organizations, people that give, and probably a few great stories of ways people are making a difference.
2. Explore the world of Crowdfunding: Many of the crowdfunding sites have sections for non profit organizations. The cool thing is that many are looking to attract funds for a specific project or program. It's a quick way to learn some of the specific efforts they are working. It can be a little tricky to confirm they are a legitimate 501c3, but don't be deterred, that's not hard to determine. A few to check out, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo, Fundly, Classy, plenty of others!
3. Leverage the Charity Aggregators: These sites are specifically designed to help you find organizations. They typically have the feed from the IRS database so you should be able to locate nearly any organization with tax exempt status. Some will have direct access to revenue, expenses, and in many cases 990 tax returns. In most cases, you'll want to dig into the advanced search features, some may require a log-in, but you can get most of what you'll need from the free account. Each is a little different, some more user friendly than others, check them out! A few to get you started: GuideStar, Charity Navigator, Great NonProfits, Idealist, Grapevine.
4. The Browser Search: Yep, jump on Google, DuckDuckGo, Bing, or whatever you use and begin the hunt. This is where I would encourage more extensive search terms and jump past the first page or two of results. You'll definitely find organizations, some will present well, some will look like their website was built as a 3rd grade extra credit project. Don't be fooled, they could be doing amazing work with those third graders!
Here's the thing, there are thousands of organizations doing amazing things in our communities. There's also tremendous need in our communities. However, our dollars are finite. We can only do so much. But here's what I've learned, when you invest in organizations that align with the causes you care about, when you can see the impact they are making, and when you can get personally involved, you will feel far more fulfilled than simply donating to something because you were asked. It takes work, but it's worth it. And the organizations doing the great work? In my little opinion, they should be rewarded. They may not be allocating budget to a website, after all they have sick children, puppies, veterans, and our living environment to look after.
And if you come across a great resource that you want to share with others, let us know!
Happy treasure hunting, find the diamond!