Celebrity names make headlines when their charities are being investigated. It doesn't matter whether or not the celebrity has a full heart and means well. And once a charity or donor is questioned, the doubt lingers long after, even if no wrongdoing is ultimately found. Madonna is the latest case where allegations, as yet unproven, have been made with respect to her charities.
While the exceptions blast across the blogosphere, the vast majority of celebrity charities are robust and healthy. Many are known only among the circle of the celebrities' friends and on a few media sites. Others are more highly publicized, like Stephen Colbert's and Jimmy Fallon's tremendous support for DonorsChoose.org. I hope you saw Colbert singing Rebecca Black's "Friday" on Jimmy Fallon's show last Friday night.
The rare exceptions—provoking legal investigations, might happen on rare occasions with the charities where any of us volunteer or contribute. The difference between celebrities and us, though, is that our names don't make headlines.
The moral of the story? The moral is not to hold back on charity or the use of your name for a good cause. The moral is to be certain that your charity's board
- Has an independent board with accomplishments, expertise, and diversity of perspectives
- Has a well qualified attorney from a leading law firm serving as secretary of your board
- Has a CPA from a leading accounting firm serving as treasurer of your board
- Has an annual audit by a highly reputable, independent firm, with the board meeting directly with the auditor
- Reviews the IRS Form 990 before it is submitted (the answer to that is right on the 990 which you can see here on GuideStar)
- Makes site visits to the organization's various sites over the course of the year
- Has a conflict of interest statement and annual disclosure statement
- Has access to staff and constituent feedback
Additionally, charity review organizations can be helpful. I find GlobalGiving particularly effective and recommend my friends to the site.
With a few simple precautionary steps, you can lend your support to the cause of your choice and help make the world a better place.