Investigating Charity Organizations

What to look for.

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They knew what many tzedakah experts stress: Accountability leads to honesty and efficiency. It is hard to cheat when everyone has access to the facts and figures. It is hard to waste money on overhead, when potential donors know exactly how much is being spent on furniture, staff and brochures.

Thus, according to the halakhah, when you see a pushke or receive a mail solicitation, your first question should be: Do I trust the person running the organization? If you do not know the gabbai or cannot find out enough about him, you should request a copy of the budget in order to check the group’s honesty and wastefulness.

In conclusion, giving tzedakah is good, but giving wisely is even better. As tzedakah expert Danny Siegel writes:

You are not doing this out of a sense of cynicism. You are protecting your tzedakah dollars, making them stretch as far as they can go to worthy causes... On the one hand, you do not want to give to wasteful organizations... On the other hand, you would not want to withhold useful, perhaps critical, tzedakah money from people who are laboring with love and care to make good things happen in this world.

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Rabbi David Golinkin

Rabbi David Golinkin, Ph.D., is president and rector of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where he teaches Talmud and Jewish law, and he heads the Va'ad Halakhah (committee on Jewish law) of the Masorti, or Conservative, movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.