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These tips provide a useful guide for donors choosing to make a first-time gift to an organization.

Interested in discovering more organizations to support? The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation is here to help you grow your giving and explore more causes that align with your values.

Our Philanthropic Services team can help you identify nonprofit organizations that align with your values and can make a tremendous impact with your gift. If you’d like suggestions on evaluating a possible new grant recipient, here are a few tips to consider when making your charitable giving decision:

1. Personalize Your Giving Journey

Before you decide to support a new cause, consider first aligning your personal values, interests and charitable vision. For our fundholders, we offer a donor toolkit to guide you. This is a great starting point to learn about causes that fit into your vision based on the things you care about the most.

Once you have identified an organization you are interested in, continue to the next steps.

2. Visit the Organization’s Website

Look for transparency. The organization’s website should be able to provide you with the nonprofit’s mission, programs, services and impact. It should also provide information on the organization's financials, values, board members and staff.

3. Talk to People who Know the Organization

Consider talking to friends who may have knowledge of the organization or may have supported the organization in the past. Contact a board member you’re familiar with for an informal information session over coffee. Here you can get a better idea of the organization's mission, and see if it aligns with your own values.

Also, the Foundation can be a resource. Our philanthropic advisors work closely with our Community Impact team. The Community Impact team has relationships with nonprofit organizations and are familiar with which nonprofits are doing work in several areas of impact, such as housing, workforce development, health and civic engagement, among others.

You may look at the Foundation’s nonprofits we fund to see if we have supported the organization through our grantmaking in recent years. (Please note the Foundation’s Building Community Capacity grant program is focused primarily on Saint Paul and the East Metro.)

Attending the Foundation’s Giving+Together events, where nonprofit partners discuss a variety of topics, is another wonderful way to get to know nonprofits.

4. Look for Ratings and Reviews

There are a number of organizations that rate and review nonprofits. You can use this information to get a sense of the organization's reputation and its effectiveness in the community it serves. Some of the resources to consider:

Also check their tax exempt status. Make sure the organization is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization or is fiscally sponsored by one. A fiscal sponsorship is when an established nonprofit provides financial oversight and management to an organization that does not yet have their own 501(c)(3) status.

Please keep in mind that newer nonprofits may not have ratings yet, and these ratings are only one piece of a larger story. Similarly, evaluating an organization’s financial management is important but insufficient to tell the full story about an organization’s impact. Stay curious, and seek out multiple sources of information to inform your thinking!

5. Trust Your Gut

Lastly, trust your thoughts and feelings on the organization. If it feels like a fit for your values and giving goals, go to the DonorView portal to recommend a grant.

If you decide this organization is no longer one you would like to support or their causes no longer align with your values, you can change things at any time.

Feel free to contact your philanthropic advisor at any time to talk through questions you may have as you consider making a grant to a new organization.

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