Assessing Charities: Cause and Outcome

By Vanessa DeDominicis

Your Estate Planning process is underway. You know that you want to provide for a charity in your Estate Plan, but you have no particular affiliation with any charity. You do, however, have one criteria… you want to make sure that your dollars end up with a charity that uses it in the most efficient manner, making the best use of your hard earned legacy. How do you decipher which charity gets the most dollars to its end beneficiary? Essentially where do you get the most “bang for your buck”?

This is a complicated question, given there are thousands and thousands of charities out there, all claiming to do the best job possible for their users.

I believe that the decision making process for you, should be two fold. You must first decide what CAUSE you want to support (animals? cancer research? assistance for the homeless? HIV/Aids? the local hospital? education? victims of crime?, the list is endless). Once you have decided upon your cause, you should then determine what OUTCOMES you want from your donation. 
 
What is important to you about your gift, where it goes, how it is structured, how you are remembered are all essential facets of the OUTCOME goal. There are numerous ways to structure a charitable gift in your Estate Plan. Whilst your lawyer can make suggestions to you regarding the organization of these gifts, the taxation of them and the law surrounding them, it will be a huge help to your lawyer if you have an idea of what outcome/difference you want your money to make in the lives of the animal/individual/group that the charity is set up for. For example, do you want to set up an Education Bursary? Do you want your estate to purchase a bench, with your name engraved on it, for folks to sit on and reflect while taking a stroll in the hospital grounds in a time of need? 
 
A great public online resource to help you find out more information about charities and also to learn how to rate them is the “New Philanthropy Capital’s Little Blue Book”. This online resource will help you to discover what is important to you in terms of rating charities. The “Little Blue Book” contains a grading grid, which can be used to rate the charity’s effectiveness on six well thought out criteria, namely Activities, Results, Leadership, People/Resources, Finances and Ambition. This resource can be found online at www.thinknpc.org/publications/the-little-blue-book/
 
There are also some third party evaluators that can be helpful in your quest too, namely: US Registered Charities:  http://charitynavigator.org/ and www.guidestar.org/ and Canadian Registered Charities:  www.charityintelligence.ca/  
 
This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com. Vanessa practices in the area of Wills and Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.