By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)Give to the Max Day is this Thursday. It’s an annual event to encourage Minnesotans to donate to their favorite charities. Last year, it raised more than $20 million.

So, before you donate, what should you ask a charity? Good Question.

“Most of us work hard for what we have, and we want to make sure the dollars we’re giving are making a difference we’re intending them to make in our community,” said Kris Kewitsch, executive director of Charities Review Council.

Charities Review Council works with and reviews 600 charities in Minnesota. They rate charities on 25 accountability standards that focus on public disclosure, fundraising, governance and finance.

Public Disclosure

  • How much information is on their website?
  • Is the board and programs listed?
  • What is impact of their programs?
  • Fundraising

  • Is the charity registered with the state attorney general?
  • Is the donors’ privacy protected?
  • Governance

  • Does the charity review the mission statement?
  • How do they approve a budget?
  • Are there term limits for board members?
  • Finance

  • How does an organization spend its money?
  • When it comes to finance, Charities Review Council says between 70- and 90-percent of a nonprofit’s expenses should go toward their programs. Anything less should make people question where the money goes. Anything above causes reviewers to be concerned about enough capital or training.

    According to Charity Navigator, an organization that reviews national charities, people can figure out this percentage on their own. Go to a nonprofit’s 990 IRS Form, which can be found at a website like GuideStar. On the 990, go to page 10 and line 25, then divide Column B (program service expenses) by Column A (total expenses).

    The Minnesota Attorney General’s office does regulate charitable funding in Minnesota and makes a charity’s registration files available upon request.

    In addition to Charities Review Council and Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau’s Wide Giving Alliance can also offer information and reports on nonprofits.

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