MINNEAPOLIS - There are thousands of charities in Minnesota. Most of them are well-meaning organizations that can do great things for people in our community. When you give one of them your hard-earned money, you want to do that they’re doing the right thing with your dollars. How can you know that?

The best thing to do? Ask questions.

“If you’re giving a meaningful amount to you, then you should feel confident, and you should ask questions till you feel good saying yes,” says Kris Kewitsch, Executive Director of Charities Review Council.

Charities Review Council is exactly as it sounds. It’s an organization that reviews charities and essentially gives them a stamp of approval. The review process is elective, so charities are not required to do it. But, if they do, they must meet 25 different standards in four different categories; governance, fundraising, public disclosure, and finance. That last one is the one people want to know the most about.

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It turns out there is no legal standard of how much money per donated dollar an organization must spend on programming. Charities Review Council asks that the organizations it reviews spend 65 to 100 percent of its resources on programming. And it’s not just about how much money per dollar or how it’s spent.

“The bigger question is what is the difference those dollars are making. So asking an organization what kind of impact measures do they have?” says Kewitsch.

All that information should be easy for a donor to find too. That’s the transparency part. If you can’t find answers on the website of the charity, pick up the phone.

“Pick up the phone and call. I don’t know a single exec director or staff person who wouldn’t love to have someone who cares about their work call and ask questions,” she says.

Charity Review Council has about 600 charities it has reviewed. If they have the CRC seal of approval, you can feel safe they are a solid organization.

You can also check out Guidestar which has information on every 501-C3 in the nation.