Last summer a friend of mine told me that she and her friends decided they wanted to put together a book club. Because I was more of a “friend-of-a-friend” I sat back and let them choose the first book (I was only 1 of 2 who actually read their selection). They chose Three Cups of Tea written by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The book focuses on an organization that Mortenson created called the Central Asia Institute (CAI) that is said to have built over 150 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I love children and the promotion of education, so once I started the book I could hardly put it down. It was riveting. I felt inspired to be the change I seek in the world. It made me want to either get involved more with children’s education (which I did: check out Open Books. I’m in love!) and donate money to CAI’s cause.
I must say that I’m glad I didn’t quite bite the bullet when it came to donating to the CAI because there have been recent reports alluding to misconduct (along the lines of building schools but not hiring teachers, leaving the schools to be used as storage lockers, etc.). With all of the websites that are increasing the ease of donating, we often forget to do our due diligence; we don’t always dot our i’s and cross our t’s.
Fortunately, there are sites out there such as Charity Navigator, GiveWell, and Great Nonprofits that rate non-profit organizations and you can verify the 501 (c) 3 status with the IRA. Bottom line, be an informed donor. As much as we may be swept away with our philanthropic excitement, we must be savvy donors.
Watch the 60 Minutes special about the CAI here.