Students reflect on charitable donations

Published: December 11, 2015


News Editor

Mallory Brayer is a first-year student studying biology in the pre-medical program at The University. When she was younger, Brayer attended a summer camp where she first heard about a nonprofit organization that caught her attention – the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. After researching, she began working with the JDRF for a few years and still has apparent passion about its programs as she immediately closed her laptop, eager to answer questions.

“I was looking at (JDRF) and thinking, ‘Wow they actually do a lot of good research – they do awareness things too,’ so I thought it was a good thing to go to,” Brayer said.

Brayer was able to work for a cause and organization she believed in, knowing her time and efforts were not being wasted. Without doing sufficient research, however, some people are not as lucky Brayer.

Another student at The University, sophomore Kerry McGee, had a difficult time recalling the exact organizations she has donated to but said she donated because of pressure and because “they were just there.”

With several causes and organizations marketing for donations, research can be crucial in deciding where to donate. Depending on how an organization uses its money can determine which to donate to.

Senior Christopher Kilner is the founder and chairman of a nonprofit organization – The Woape Foundation – as well as the student government president at The University. He said The Woape Foundation spends about 95 percent of donated money on projects.

“We don’t spend almost any money on outside marketing tools because, as a smaller nonprofit, I think that would take away from what we’re trying to do,” Kilner said.

Nonprofit organizations do have a responsibility to be transparent with their donors, Kilner said. He explained that nonprofit organizations could lose credibility and ultimately hurt their organization if they spend their money unwisely.

“There have been cases of nonprofits that weren’t very upfront with their supporters,” Kilner said. “And once people find out, once the news organizations find out, even if that nonprofit had a great mission – it collapses.”

Kilner suggested donors reach out to nonprofit organizations to ask about their finances and long-term plans and research people’s experiences with the nonprofit organization before deciding to donate.

Daniel Mahoney, Ph.D., an accounting professor at The University, has been a board member at the Griffin Pond Animal Shelter since 2011. He explained another way to find more information about how a nonprofit organization spends its money.

“Suppose you come to me soliciting contributions for (a voluntary health and welfare) entity,” Mahoney said. “I might say to you … let me see your entity’s Statement of Functional Expenses. And that way I’ll look at it, and I’ll see how much of the money that your organization raises goes actually to program services and how much of it goes to support services.”

Usually only larger, voluntary health and welfare organizations will prepare a Statement of Functional Expenses, Mahoney said. If a nonprofit organization does not have a prepared statement, a donor should ask for its IRS Form 990, which every registered nonprofit organization is required to file. He said looking at the highest salaries at an organization is a good starting point.

While research can be time-consuming, people from multiple levels – donors, board members, founders and chairmen – agree it is necessary to the donating process.

“You don’t really know what you’re actually donating to unless you look into it a little bit,” Brayer said.

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