When I first started working at this gorgeous company that we like to call PocketChange, myself and many of my fellow employees were tasked with the duty of selecting charities. At the time, we were working towards building the tool from scratch – this is a daunting task.
There would be no PocketChange without our wonderful charities! One of the most frequently asked and highly valued questions from our users is about the process of charity selection.
What does it look like?
What are your qualifications?
Who IS making this important decision?
In my opinion, this selection process is one of the most important parts of the whole PocketChange process. So let’s break it down! I won’t go into the specifics, I’m sure you don’t really care that much about all the time I spent scrolling through profiles of different YMCA’s, but our guidelines for selection are extremely important. These guidelines can be separated into four separate categories: approach diversity, financial efficiency, total transparency, and scaling focus.
We start with analyzing approach diversity. How does the organization approach the issue? Is it multifaceted? Is it intentional? In selecting a charity, we want to ensure that they have a diverse approach to tackling the issue. PocketChange is guided by the belief that the right organization, with the right resources and the right amount of time, can actually fix the major problems in the world. We love when an organization has one program and they run it really well. But, we EXTRA love when an organization is approaching an issue through an interconnected lens that allows them to approach it in the big picture. THAT is our perfect organization.
Though we appreciate when a charity can provide solid short term aid, one of our most important criteria for evaluation is sustainable impact. Rather than being activity-focused, we evaluate our charities through a solutions-focused lens. Though it is important to serve bowls of soup to the hungry and provide beds for the homeless, we are focused on the work a charity does to eradicate the world’s problems at their core. By focusing on outcomes as opposed to activity, we make our jobs a much harder. These outcomes are often more growth oriented and less numeric. We ask ourselves the big questions. How many people are escaping the cycle of homelessness because of this charity? How much closer is this charity to actually solving this world problem?
Once we see that the charity is both cute and complex, we move onto our next step: financial efficiency. Financial efficiency is important to us because we want all of your dollars and cents to be used in the best possible way. Costs matter so much to us because they demonstrate an organization’s ability to scale, be financially apt and maximize their financial impact. When we select our charities, we aim to work with those who spend more than 85% of their money on programs. Not to toot our own horn, but this 85% criterion is 20% higher than the Better Business Bureau’s Standards and 10% higher than Charity Navigators programs. Toot. Toot. We seriously rock.
Now that those dollars are being spent efficiently, we make sure each of our charities is totally transparent. We don’t want any sneaky business on the side. This transparency can take many different forms. Items like IRS financial audits and ranking from credible third-party organizations like Guidestar and Charity Navigator can be utilized to ensure that the charity has nothing to hide. When selecting our charities, it’s crucial that we – normal everyday people analyzing the charity – are able to fully comprehend the organization’s decisions and strategies.
Finally, we analyze the organization’s scaling focus to make sure that its good work is being done with the largest possible impact. We love when organizations think locally but act on a larger scale. Sometimes it’s really tough to make an effective impact globally. When this is the case, we recognize the organizations that tackle an issue in the place where it will be the most impactful.
So, there it is! We use those four different lenses to ensure that the charity we are selecting for any given cause is the most impactful possible. Each of our selectors is well-versed on these four qualifications… we are experts in our field.
With each donation to these incredible organizations, we are one step closer to solving those major world problems. So let’s keep PocketChanging It.
So keep up that kindness, huh?