More than 10 years ago, Jan Mitchell read an article in the Northfield United Way’s newsletter about the Charities Review Council. The article attracted her interest, because she grew up in a family that always believed in giving to charitable causes, and she’s given to charities all of her life. She was interested in learning more about the ones she currently gave to and about others who sought her financial support.
I appreciate the work the Council does since it gives me the ability to find out how various agencies use the money they get from donors,” she explained. “The transparency and accountability that the Council provides helps me be a more intelligent giver.”
Mitchell now uses the Council’s website, rather than the phone, to learn about various charities. “Since the Council can now make more reports available than ever before, I have more information to help me make decisions,” she said, “I really appreciate that.” A few years ago, she was part of a group the Council asked to critique the website, which was a positive experience. Mitchell is also interested in the Council’s Great Givers program that encourages youth to begin thinking about philanthropy, since she is a retired social studies teacher.
“I check out the charities I give to regularly when I get the Council’s newsletters,” she said. “I’m particularly interested in making sure that the charities I give to use their money for services, not administration.” In addition to being a financial contributor to charities, Mitchell also is an active volunteer. She serves on the boards of the Rice County Humane Society and on the River Bend Nature Center in Faribault, Minn.
Mitchell gives to a broad spectrum of charities, and she carefully tracks her gifts on a monthly basis, checking to see when she last gave to each individual charity. One of her annual gifts goes to the Charities Review Council itself so that it can continue to provide the information on which she relies.
“I try to allocate my gifts with a percentage for specific categories, such as the environment, arts, education, political causes, humane efforts, etc.,” she explained. “Then I determine the approximate percentage that I want to spend for the year and, by tracking them monthly, I can tell if I am getting too far into one area or the other.”
Like most people, she is also solicited by a large number of other organizations and the Council’s website makes it possible for her to establish whether they are legitimate. The website not only makes the analysis easier, it gives Mitchell confidence that the donations she provides to the various organizations are being well spent.