Researching Charitable Organizations Online
Centuries ago, churches were whatever their leaders said they were. Think about it: The only way followers got any information about their religion was from the pulpit.
Back then, people went to churches, synagogues and temples and listened to what the ordained ministers had to say about God. They didn’t have their own scriptures, they didn’t have public libraries and they didn’t have a forum of any real kind.
Now, people have a plethora of religious data at their fingertips. Since the days of the Gutenberg Bible, religious folks have had an ever-growing source of information to study and reflect upon. It sounds weird, but if someone wants to learn about a particular religion, the best way may very well be to Google it.
Religious organizations are scrutinized and reviewed on blogs, news sites and more. The question is, is this a good thing or a bad thing? It’s certainly never bad to provided as much information about a topic as possible. However, it’s important that information be accurate, factual and unbiased—as it pertains to religion or any other matter people take seriously.
So where is the best place to go online to learn about a church or religion? Sometimes, these organizations run businesses, usually the non-profit kind. Religious charities abound, and many of them are the subject of consumer reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau.
One interesting thing about the BBB is that it gives organizations grades on a scale of A+ to F, and believe it or not, it is possible to land on both ends of the spectrum. Melaleuca, for example, isn’t a religious organization, but it does have its own charity and an A+ rating.
The BBB also has a list of charities accredited by the Giving Alliance. If you look up a particular charity and the BBB gives it a green check mark, that can be taken as a good sign. There is a series of criteria that can get BBB approval (green check marks). these include board oversight, audit reports and more.
There was a story last week about a group of four connected charities that are currently being investigated by the FTC and all 50 State Attorneys general for bilking the U.S. populace out $187 million and keeping almost all of it for themselves. None of them got a BBB approval like, say, the Cancer Research Institute has. Hindsight is 20/20, but this should have been a sign that perhaps these organizations aren’t what they say they are.