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Donations drive nonprofit organizations and charities. Whether these are small donations from individuals or six-figures from businesses, all gifts are important to these institutions.

Jeanine Carroll, chief marketing and communications officer at Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland; and Karen Mozenter, CEO of Jewish Family Services in Columbus, said any prospective donor should do their homework on the organization they wish to donate to.

“Prior to doing any kind of giving to a nonprofit organization, it’s a good idea to check if they’re a legitimate charity,” Carroll said. “There are a variety of ways to do that. The IRS has a nonprofit charity database. There are places like Charity Navigator and GuideStar that rate charities as far as their work, transparency and financial legitimacy.

“... Primarily, I would say it should be a good fit for what you see as a valued mission that the organization tries to further.”

On top of double-checking whether a charity is legitimate, Mozenter also said donors should know what charities focuses on and make sure that it aligns with their values.

“Whether it’s someone who wants to give $18 or $18 million, the goal is to approach the organization that you think you might be interested in supporting, and get to know them,” Mozenter said. “What we would want at Jewish Family Services is to have someone reach out to us and say, ‘I’m interested in learning more about your work and how I could support it.’ And what we would do is invite that person to talk with us, come and visit.”

Once a donor decides what charity to donate to, they can then decide what specific program they’d like to contribute to.

“In any situation, even a $5 gift online, someone could designate what program they would like it to serve,” Carroll said. “On our website’s donation page, we have a variety of programs that are described, and you can donate to a specific one. For example, towards the Ronald McDonald House or perhaps a family room that we operate in a hospital, or our care mobile. It’s as simple as clicking on the correct campaign to designate your gift that way.”

Carroll added larger donations are usually discussed directly with someone within the program as opposed to just on the website’s donation page.

“If we’re talking about larger gifts, that is really developed in partnership with the organization development folks and the donor,” Carroll said. “We have folks who discuss all different kinds of opportunities and where the needs are, and we try to find that good fit between what the donor is interested in supporting, and what the organization has to offer.”

While these organizations try their best to make the act of donating as simple as possible, there could still be unexpected snags in the process, even after the donation is made.

Mozenter gave a hypothetical example of a program getting a donation, but then losing funding from another source, and having to shut the program down. At that point, the organization and the donor must work out a new plan for where to allocate that money.

“We always want to fulfill the donor intent,” Mozenter said. “If there was something that was given for a particular purpose, then we might need to go back to the donor or the donor family and say ‘okay here’s the situation now, what would you like to do?’”

However, Mozenter added the donor’s intent is almost always fulfilled one way or another, even when these unexpected issues come up.

Carroll stated the best gifts to give to an organization are unrestrictive gifts, where the money can be allocated wherever the organization needs it the most.

“It’s helpful,” she said. “But what’s most helpful is when it’s nonrestrictive. Nonrestrictive gifts to operations allows us to continue to do what we need to do and to be agile. While a designated gift for a specific program is also appreciated, the non-restricted gifts really help us to do what we need to do.”

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