The crisis in Türkiye and surrounding areas has mobilized donors and charities across the globe, and has highlighted the need for thoughtful, researched giving. Individuals and grantmaking organizations, while eager to offer support, must be diligent and responsible in choosing their grantees. By establishing a practice of evaluating potential grantees, you will be able to direct funding to charities supporting the causes and missions important to you and that approach outcomes in ways that align with your intentions, thereby boosting the impact of your contributions in the face of this crisis and others.
Maximizing Your Impact
When considering charitable gifts both at home and abroad, it is important for donors to evaluate the intended recipient before making a gift. This is true whether it is through his or her own evaluation process, or by using an organization whose business is to evaluate charities, or a combination of both. There are several things to consider when choosing a charity to which to contribute.
How to Evaluate a Charity
Before delving into the mechanics of giving to foreign causes, we include here links to several organizations that we believe have done some due diligence work for donors and have compiled lists of highly-rated and respected nonprofit organizations doing work in Türkiye, Syria, and the surrounding areas.
Charities Supporting Türkiye
Taking Your Philanthropy Abroad
On February 6th, Türkiye experienced one of the deadliest earthquake events in recent history. With aftershocks still occurring, millions are impacted in Türkiye, Syria and Lebanon, deepening the humanitarian crisis already existing in the area. While stretching philanthropy across borders can be a confusing, even daunting, proposition, many in the United States would like to lend assistance. In addition to questions of logistics, there are legal and tax implications to be considered as well. This guide is aimed at easing the complexities that come along with international giving, to help our clients provide aid abroad if they wish to do so.
While more complicated than contributing to organizations in our own communities, it is possible for U.S. citizens to support charitable efforts beyond our borders. Making gifts to foreign organizations requires additional due diligence, vetting of the organizations, and a thoughtful analysis of the best structural approach to such gifts.
For example, do you want to support advocacy, medical care, provide services for refugees, or provide necessities within a specific area? Many organizations offering support in the face of the current crisis may have different focuses, target communities, and/or timelines. It is important to identify your own goals in order to evaluate the goals of a potential grantee.
Look for an organization with a clear and specific mission statement. An organization with a strong mission may be better equipped to take a focused approach to working toward that mission, thereby reaching its goals more effectively and efficiently.
There are frequently many ways to work toward a given mission, and it is important that you as the donor agree with the approach taken by your potential grantee.
To evaluate the reputation of a potential grantee, you should review news coverage of the organization, who the organization has chosen for its board of directors, and its standing on websites such as guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org.
Is there a need for the organization’s services in its target community? What proof of success does the charity have? Does it report on impact? Will it measure the impact of your gift?
If you intend to make a sizable gift, you may not only want to determine if the charity is making a difference but how they will track the impact of your dollars in particular.
Who else donates to the organization, and are they reputable? If a large and well-respected foundation is also donating to the organization, a donor may be afforded some comfort that that foundation has completed a level of due diligence before offering its support to the organization in question.
A U.S. donor may give directly to a foreign charity. However, by making a direct gift to a foreign organization, the U.S. donor may forego any corresponding income tax deduction for that gift, and vetting of the organization will fall solely on the donor’s shoulders. It can be difficult to adequately research a foreign charity or to measure the impact of a contribution over time. Due to these drawbacks, donors may want to consider alternative options for directing funds abroad.
Give to a U.S. Based Public Charity Operating Abroad.
A donor may contribute to a U.S. public charity that maintains a global mission and operations abroad, and direct that his or her gift be used for a specific foreign program operated by that organization. Disaster relief projects are typically funded this way. So long as the domestic entity qualifies as a U.S. public charity and maintains full control over its foreign operations, the donor’s contribution will be income tax deductible just as any gift to a U.S. based charity would be.
Give Through a U.S. Based Intermediary Organization.
There are two main types of U.S. based intermediary organizations. One type is a “Friends of” organization. This type of organization raises funds within the U.S. and ultimately distributes those funds to a foreign charity to which the Friends of organization is related. A contribution to a Friends of organization is treated in the same way as a contribution to a typical domestic public charity would be for purposes of income tax deductibility. Another type of U.S. based intermediary organization operates similarly to a donor advised fund (“DAF”) but specifically facilitates international grants from the giving accounts it administers. A frequently used organization of this type is CAF America (www.cafamerica.org). CAF America operates as a U.S. public charity and is able to accept funds from U.S. donors who can then make recommendations for grants to be made out of their giving accounts. Note that just as with a typical DAF, the ultimate decision as to whether to make the grant lies with CAF America and not with the donor, just like a typical DAF. Unlike a traditional DAF, CAF America’s main purpose is to accommodate grants to foreign charitable organizations and projects.
Give Through a U.S. Based Donor Advised Fund.
Individual donors may use assets held in donor advised funds to fund U.S. based public charities operating abroad and U.S. based intermediary organizations covered above. In addition, some DAF administrators have international grant programs in place to assist donors in supporting causes abroad. For example, Fidelity Charitable (www.fidelitycharitable.org) has a Direct International Grant Program which allows clients to recommend grants directly to foreign charities. While there are no additional fees to make a grant from a donor’s DAF to a U.S. public charity with global operations, there may be additional fees to make a grant from a DAF account to a U.S. based intermediary organization. For international grant programs, DAF administrators typically implement account minimums to be eligible for the program, as well as grant minimums to take advantage of the program if eligible. In addition, the DAF administrator will likely charge additional service fees to cover the due diligence process required to facilitate a direct foreign grant.
While a private foundation may make foreign grants, those grants will be subject to scrutiny by the IRS and thus require additional due diligence and reporting. There are three main ways a foundation may make international grants:
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What are your goals?
What is the charity’s mission?
How does the charity intend to
accomplish its mission or its goals?
What is the size of your gift?
What need is the organization meeting
what impact has it had in the past?
Is the organization transparent
with its records and filings?
What is the reputation of the
organization you are evaluating?
Through a Private Foundation
Just like an individual, a private foundation may make grants to a U.S. based 501(c)(3) public charity operating abroad, a U.S. based intermediary organization, or a DAF.
A private foundation may give to a foreign charity with an equivalency determination. An equivalency determination is a good faith determination that the foreign organization qualifies as equivalent to a U.S. 501(c)(3) public charity.
A private foundation may make a grant to a foreign charity by conducting expenditure responsibility reporting in connection with the grant. Expenditure responsibility reporting is a framework required by the IRS to ensure that foundation funds are used exclusively for charitable purposes, and it is required in certain circumstances such as when a private foundation makes a grant to a foreign organization that has not received a ruling on its public charity status from the IRS or for which an equivalency determination has not been made.
Charity Navigator - Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
CharityWatch - Turkey & Syria Earthquakes
CAF America - Earthquake Response in Türkiye & Syria