Holiday Giving Guide: What to look for before you donate - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Holiday Giving Guide: How to check out charities before you donate

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During the Holiday season there are many opportunities to give, but sometimes there are so many, we have to decide which ones to support. 

First of all, it's important to find an organization or cause that you're passionate about, but you also want to look into how that organization is using your donated dollars. 

Non-profit organizations use donated funds to meet the needs of many individuals, but they also have to deal with the costs of doing business. 

"That's a big deal, people in Sioux Falls are frugal, they want to make sure that when they give, it's going to the right place, it's being administered the right way and its not going for a bunch of overhead," said Dave Long with the United Way. 

Overhead like rent, utilities and supplies are one expense many non-profits can't avoid. 

"In order to provide these things we still have costs such as building costs or lights," said Sioux Empire Red Cross Director Nancy Hanneman. 

In Sioux Falls, many non-profits are located in the same low-cost area, even sharing meeting space in the Center for Non-Profits. 

Sometimes those buildings can be a service in themselves.  Starting December 1st, the gym at the Salvation Army Center will become a warming center for the homeless during the winter. 

Another big expense are salaries, some for administrative purposes and other for hands on work in the community.  

"We have people who specialize in case work, people who work with children, we have people who work at the thrift store," said Salvation Army Major Thomas Riggs. 

Administrative salaries are one thing to check for. In many cases they can range from $500,000 to over one million dollars for the head executive directors of national organizations.  

But Sioux Empire Red Cross Director Nancy Hanneman says potential donors should also look at the benefits those administrators are bringing to their organizations. 

"Looking at what she makes as a salary, but also what she brings back and brings to the organization," said Hanneman. 

These charities say they encourage people to dig deep and ask questions before they donate. 

"That's the time to ask a lot of questions and make sure that you know where your dollar is going," said Hanneman. 

Nearly all non-profit organizations should have a breakdown of how every dollar you give is spent.  For example, the above organizations said between 80 and over 90 cents of every dollar donated is directly applied to the services their organization provides. 

To check into any charitable organization, you can call or stop by their local office or look them up online.  Here are two helpful websites:  Charity Navigator and Charity Watch

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