Two ways to improve how we do charity in America

Sites like CharityWatch and Charity Navigator rank charities according to their level of effectiveness. This is great for individuals who are actively looking to give their money to good, trusted causes. But it’s ineffective for the casual giver. These are the types of people who would benefit from these two improvements.

Here’s the first one: sites like the two mentioned work together to develop a certification program. This gives a helpful heuristic for shoppers asked to donate at cash registers. Asking if the cause is certified with the program would help them rest assured that the money they’re giving is being spent wisely.

For what guidelines might be, CharityWatch’s top-rated organizations generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, have met CharityWatch’s governance benchmarks, and receive “open-book” status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to CharityWatch.

And secondly, when asked to donate at self-checkouts there should be an option to get more information. Companies like WalMart expect shoppers to donate to charities out of altruism.  Sure people could take out their phones and look the charity up, but the whole point of the process is to give a nudge. So why shouldn’t they give this easy additional nudge? It would help ensure accountability and give further ease of mind.