Your donation ensures that we can continue the important work of strengthening nonprofits, networking them together, growing resources for the sector, and amplifying the sector’s voice on behalf of the people and causes nonprofits serve.


Deciding which nonprofits are worthy of your financial support is no small feat. The steps below will help you do your due diligence in ensuring an organization matches your values and operates ethically and transparently.


Maybe you have a soft spot for animals or you’re active in your local sports league. Perhaps a family member is a veteran or you feel strongly about the importance of education. With over 1.8 million nonprofits registered with the IRS – 32,000+ in Maryland alone – it’s likely that there are multiple organizations working on the issues you care about. Start by searching Maryland Nonprofits’ member directory. Our members agree to adhere to a set of nonprofit best practices developed by Maryland Nonprofits, the Standards for Excellence Code, that are nationally replicated.

SEARCH FOR ORGANIZATIONS THAT FIT YOUR VALUES is a free service containing records on 1.8 million charities registered with the IRS. Look for the Seal of Excellence – the symbol of accreditation by our Standards for Excellence Institute – under “Awards and Accreditations” on an organization’s profile. Review the organization’s 990 tax return for basic information on income, spending, mission, and executive salaries (here are some simple, easy-to-find facts that will help you decide which charities deserve your contributions). Note that, just like for-profits, nonprofits need overhead to support operations and deliver on mission. Much has been written about the (mis)understanding of overhead costs. Suffice it to say that it’s not feasible to look at one simple number to determine how to give your charitable dollars. Focus your attention on the organization’s overall performance and impact.


Visit the organization’s website to verify if they are meeting basic benchmarks in operating transparenty. Do they prominently display prior years’ 990 tax returns? Can you download and read their annual report for more information on their programs and impact? This indicates that the operations of the nonprofit are ethical and legally compliant.

  1. Ask them about their mission. The organization should be able to clearly and succinctly explain who they are, what they do, and why they are needed. If they struggle to articulate their mission and programs, they probably struggle in delivering those programs.
  2. Ask about their goals. Specific goals are a necessary tool to measure success. What progress has the organization made towards achieving its goals?
  3. Ask for additional sources of information to increase your confidence in their work. Examples could include an audited financial statement, a case study, or a white paper report on an issue.

While many nonprofits are doing great work, they often struggle to raise the funds required to meet the needs of their community. Your donation is important – do your research and be confident you are supporting an ethical, well-managed organization!