Make sure the ‘charity’ isn’t a scam. Having ‘non-profit’ status means nothing except they filed forms. In order to be considered a public charity an organization must receive a substantial part of its support from a ‘government unit’ or from general public support. There’s the first part of the scam, many charities are just a front to launder grant money which for some idiotic reason is considered ‘public support’ even though nobody in the public has any control over this money. Feeding at the public trough does not make for a good charity.
So how do you do a ‘background check’ on a charity? Easy, non-profit organizations tax returns are public information. They are fairly easy to find, I used to use guidestar however they’ve gone to a subscription only format so currently the easiest free site is Foundation Center. Decoding 990’s isn’t very fun, however it’s the only way to get facts. I’ll try to walk you through an example. For the purposes of this article I’m using the 2014 990-EZ for Project Great Outdoors, if you want to follow along here it is: 943368163_201412_990EZ