There, I said it.
I know that, working here are the Charities Review Council, I should say that we rigorously look at each organization and from this research decide which ones to support. But the reality is different.
Like a couple of my colleagues, Amy and Jenna, wrote in their blogs, my wife and I start with a budget and figure out how much we can afford to give. But after this very rational process, our hearts lead the rest of the way. Frankly, we support the nonprofits we have a personal connection with. That personal connection started because the nonprofit's work resonated with us and, based on our personal experience with the nonprofit, we believed it was making a difference on the issues we care about.
Now, coincidentally, most of the nonprofits we support have gone through a review with the Charities Review Council, but not all. I think this fits, though, with how we as an organization look at the review process. While we offer information to donors about reviewed nonprofits, we also acknowledge that meeting all standards isn't the same as an endorsement. There are a number of great organizations doing fantastic work that may never choose to participate in a review or don't meet all standards.
What is important is that donors strive to make informed giving decisions. This can include (and I would argue probably should include) "hands-on" research where a donor actually sees the difference being made by a nonprofit because they spent time actually developing a relationship with the organization. What's interesting to me is that this concept is actually at the root of venture philanthropy organizations like Social Venture Partners (here's the link to Social Venture Partners Minnesota).
Maybe I'm just rationalizing the fact that I'm a softy when it comes to making giving decisions, but I do believe that informed donors should consider their relationship to a nonprofit and need to take the long-view in supporting organizations that connect to their values.