Guidelines for Choosing a Charity

The last thing anyone wants is to give to a bogus charity or a non-profit that’s mishandling contributions. The best way to protect yourself, as a donor, is through research and contemplation.

How to Donate to the Right Non-profit

Before you open your chequebook or volunteer your time make sure you clarify your philosophies and preferences. What matters most to you…The Environment? Education? Malnutrition? Animal wellbeing? Medical research? Economic development?

Think about where you want to make an impact…locally, provincially, countrywide or maybe even internationally? Are you looking to support a longstanding charity or something fresh? Are you most interested in supporting a small or large organization?

Whatever you choose make sure the organization speaks to you.

Do your homework.

Look into a charity’s operation and legitimacy on websites such as Charity Focus, Charity Intelligence Canada or CharityCAN. Ensure that it is a legitimate tax-exempt organization in good standing with the Canada Revenue Agency.
Look for clear descriptions of a charity’s operation and programs, goals and achievements. Are the goals measurable? Does the charity use tangible terms to describe its accomplishments?

If you compare charities, try not to compare apples to oranges. Compare charities that do similar work, especially if you’re looking at their finances. The type of work a charity does can affect its operating costs dramatically.

Keep in mind that a reputable non-profit will be open to discussing their programs and finances and will be willing to send you literature about their work or direct you to a website. They will also take “no” for an answer so make sure you avoid charities that try to pressure you.

Trust your gut.

If after all your research you still have misgivings about a charity, don’t contribute. Instead, find another non-profit that does the same kind of work but with which you feel more comfortable, only then should you make your donation.

For more information and answers to your specific questions, please click here to send us an email.

Resources for Investigating Non-profits:

Charity Focus ( – An excellent tool for finding information about the 85,000 registered charities in Canada. You can search by specific organization or find charities in your community or area of interest.

Charity Intelligence Canada ( – Provides Canadian donors with information that helps them make informed and intelligent giving decisions to have the greatest impact.

CharityCAN ( – Search for, analyse and compare Canada’s registered charities using, among other things, the last five years of financial statements for each of these charities.