Why You Can Still Trust Charities
At the same time that social justice movements have become more visible and widespread than any time in recent memory, there's also rising distrust of all institutions - charities included.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy said in January 2020 that the nonprofit sector is facing a crisis of trust. According to data from the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveyed 34,000 people, including 500 Americans, the article's authors wrote that "Only 52 percent of Americans have faith that nonprofits will 'do what is right.'"
That's not too surprising given the frenzied state of the world and the rise of social media in publishing, which generates more suspicion than trust.
But there are reasons to believe that donating to charity is still one of the best things you can do to make a positive difference in the world.
In fact, the distrust of nonprofits may be unwarranted, despite the many negative news stories about charities that failed to live up to their own standards.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy also reported that the majority of charities are actually highly effective in their efforts.
"Over the past six years, first at the nonprofit evaluators ImpactMatters and then at Charity Navigator, I worked with a team that analyzed the effectiveness - in terms of results and cost - of more than 1,000 direct-service nonprofits engaged in areas such as school improvement, community health, work-force development, and hunger," Elijah Goldberg wrote. "I've come away with a clear conclusion: Most nonprofits are actually highly successful - and cost-effective - at improving the lives of those they serve. At least that's what the data show."
Very few of the charities analyzed in the study fell short of top marks. The vast majority of nonprofits in the study - 86 percent of 1,064 organizations - earned a designation of either "cost-effective" or "highly cost-effective." Of those, a slim majority of 57 percent actually made the top designation of "highly cost-effective."
So while there will always be some charities and nonprofits that don't deliver the results they claim, most of them do good work that's still worthy of support.
The article mentions several examples of successful nonprofits, including Eden Reforestation Projects, which plants trees to offset carbon emissions, Sankara Nethralaya Om Trust, which prevents blindness by performing cataract surgeries at $70 a person, and Nourish Pierce County, which collects and distributes food in the Tacoma, Washington, area.
Even when a charity receives negative press - it's not always justified.
In Canada for example, the media and politicians painted a negative picture of WE Charity, one of the country's largest and most successful charities for 25 years.
That doesn't mean you should give to a nonprofit without doing your due diligence, however. Charity Navigator also has a handy list of ways to ensure that your donations are as informed as possible.
Those steps are:
● Be proactive in your giving
● Do your research before giving
● Discuss the results and impact
● Consider the way you give
● Follow your investment
It's easy to get caught up in sensationalist reporting. And there's a lot of good information out there about what organizations you can trust.
The important thing is not to let go of the certainty that nonprofits and charities are still changing the world for the better - and there's likely never been a more crucial time for all of us to help.
"The myth of the ineffective nonprofit is just that - a myth," the Chronicle of Philanthropy wrote. "Assessed against objective criteria, most nonprofits are doing an excellent job of improving the lives of those they serve."