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What questions should South Asian donors ask?

June 8, 2009
(Steve Adams, c/o WSJ)

(Steve Adams, c/o WSJ)

The Give & Take blog features a post by Saundra Schimmelpfennig critiquing a WSJ article about what questions donors should ask when picking a nonprofit to receive a gift.

Donors should ask to see a nonprofit’s audit report, NOT ask about its overhead or administrative costs.

This was a pet peeve of mine when working for a small nonprofit – donors don’t understand that a healthy level of administrative costs is required for an organization to remain sustainable.  If all the money goes to programs, with no money for fundraising and communications, it’s only a matter of time before the group is maxed out.

Donors should also ask to see independent evaluations conducted of the organization and its programs, NOT ask for generic answers about its successes and challenges.

Finally, Saundra recommends donors ask about needs assessments conducted by the charities, to ensure that charities are not duplicating work and that they really understand how their programs will fix the need at hand.

This seems to be a common question I have of small South Asian groups doing work abroad – building schools, clinics, etc.  I wonder whether proper needs assessments have been done to ensure that building a new school or clinic is better than rehabbing what already exists – or consolidating efforts within one region.

What do you all think?  What questions do you ask of charities?

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