We’ve all been in this situation: a major crisis or world event takes place, and suddenly, we are bombarded with donation links on social media, newsletters or WhatsApp for a multitude of charities. We know how powerful Sadaqah can be, especially during Ramdan, and its benefits for us spiritually, as well as for society as a whole. But how many of us do the due diligence when it comes to researching the charities we donate to?
Doing our research on the charities that we’re interested in donating to is the first step in ensuring our donations are going in the right hands. In this article, we discuss the 6 steps to researching a charity, and the questions you should be asking before parting with your money.
1. Set your intentions
Before embarking on performing any act of goodness, the first point of call for us as Muslims is always to renew our intentions to give for the sake of Allah alone. This sentiment is captured in the Qu’ran through the story of Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail. After building the Kabah, they recited the following dua to reset their intentions as they were worried their act would not be accepted, despite how great of a good deed it is. This is an example we can learn a lot from and you can recite this dua too when giving charity:
“…Our Lord, accept [this] from us. You are the All Hearing, the All Knowing.” [Qu’ran 2:127]
When it comes to giving Sadaqah, our intentions should be rooted in attaining the pleasure of Allah and carrying out the commandments Allah has outlined for us in the Holy Qur’an:
“…and those in whose wealth there is a recognised right, for the needy and deprived” [Qur’an 70:24-5]
2. Find your charity and check if they are registered
First up, find your charity. With Ramadan just around the corner, most likely, a charity has already found you in the form of a social media ad, a newsletter or even a recommendation from a friend or influencer. But you have other options too! Shortlist causes and corresponding charities that resonate with you and align with your values.
Once you have your list ready, the next step is to find out whether the charity is registered or not. In the UK, charities are registered with The Charity Commission. The Charity Commision was set up to inspire trust in charities so that people can improve lives and strengthen society. A charity registering with the commission can inform you that the charity is currently operating and that it has been properly vetted. This also indicates that the charity is both submitting, and recording information about their activities. You can also check the name and address of the charity’s trustees, the work and aims of the charity and their finances.
3. Ensure you’re giving to the right project or programme
There are many different ways of giving charity in Islam. Whether you are giving Sadaqah on an odd night in Ramadan, raising money for a Sadaqah Jariya (continuing charity), paying your Zakat or paying a Fidya/Kifara, it can help to narrow down the specific project or programme that you will be donating to within the charity itself. Whilst most Muslim charities offer a range of programmes, some also have specific programmes in relation to the type of Sadaqah you wish to give.
In the case of Sadaqah Jariya for example, it’s crucial that you ensure the project is long-term so that the benefit is continuous. Likewise with Zakat, if you are donating to a charity, you must explicitly state to the charity that your donation is a Zakat donation rather than a general Sadaqah to ensure it reaches those who are eligible for it.
4. Don’t be put off by admin fees
Admin fees are necessary costs for the smooth running of any charity or organisation. Admin costs can increase the impact of charities; it is important that a charity is able to maximise on each pound donated so that those on the receiving end can get the full benefit of your donation, and your donation goes further.
An admin fee does not remove from your Sadaqah and simply put, a donation with an admin fee is still a 100% donation.
Contrary to popular belief, when a charity charges an admin fee, it is usually a good indication that the charity is managing your Sadaqah efficiently and doing their own due diligence, though the same can also apply to charities that do not charge an admin fee.
5. Check if the charity has access to those in need and/or the country they work in
One beautiful quality about our ummah is that when we hear of news of people in need, we rush to their aid. We naturally feel compelled to help our brothers and sisters in need. While many charities and initiatives are well-intentioned, some may not have any means or skills to access or distribute effectively to the country or person they say that they’re helping.
In fact, it is extremely difficult to access countries like Syria, Myanmar and Yemen, and some charities are even banned from entering these countries, while others can only help those that are displaced and are no longer in the country. In many cases, the funds that a charity collects are held up en route till they can gain access which can take weeks, months or even years.
Larger and more established charities tend to have more expertise, resources and networks, built up over the years, to access those in need quickly and effectively. They have more knowledge of the legal frameworks and are often recognised by governments and official boards and commissions which makes it easier for them to access disaster zones more quickly and to deliver aid more efficiently.
As a donor, you have every right to understand how a charity operates and manages its funds. If information on what is happening with your donation is not available or being withheld then that is a red flag you should not ignore. Unfortunately, there have been occasions where it has come to light that beneficiaries have not received donations intended for them, or that a charity has misspent funds. This should encourage us as donors to ensure that we hold charities to account and to do our own research.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a financial analyst or expert to understand how a charity spends its money as most of this information can be found on a charity’s annual report. Most charities will publish their annual reports on their website, but you can also reach out to them directly to request these reports from them. If a charity’s annual income is above £5000, you will be able to find their annual report and accounts by searching for them by name or charity number on the Charity Commission website.
By reading these reports, you can get a good sense of how much a charity raises and what they spend it on. How forthcoming a charity is about publishing or providing you with this information is usually a good indicator of how trustworthy they are.
Some key things to look out for in a charity’s annual report include:
We hope this guide has equipped you with the information and resources you need to understand what to look out for when donating to a charity, and to donate with confidence knowing that your money will end up where you intend it to.
May Allah allow us to reach Ramadan and reap its many blessings. May our charity be accepted and may it reach those who need it most. Ameen
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