Your 4-Step Guide to Choosing a Nonprofit

We hear about new non-profit organizations and urgent causes to get involved with every day, from orphan care to water wells and refugee relief. There are over 1.5 million non-profit organization in the United States alone! How do you tell them apart? How do you support one that’s making the biggest difference?

We hear about new non-profit organizations and urgent causes to get involved with every day, from orphan care to water wells and refugee relief. There are over 1.5 million non-profit organization in the United States alone! How do you tell them apart? How do you support one that’s making the biggest difference?

As a trusted international ministry with a 45-year history, we want to give you some pointers. Here are 4 values you should always look for before considering partnering with a faith-based non-profit:

1. Building the Local Church 

We listed this value first, because we think it is the most important value to look for. Here’s why. As Christians, we are all responsible to “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:16-20). This is our primary responsibility – above giving food, housing, education, you name it. Disciples are not made in bread lines, they are made in local churches (in whatever form they take).

That being said, we see in the book of Acts when a local church was established, the needs of the people in that community were cared for (Acts 2, 6,). In the Biblical model, aid and assistance flows from the established local church. In this way, the spiritual and physical needs of people are being alleviated by those they are in community with. Long term transformation of the individual reached and sustainable ministry for the future both are found in the established local church.

The question you must ask is, “What value does this non-profit assign to the local church?” Do they partner and strategize with local churches to help those in their communities, or do they work independently from the church altogether?

Here’s an example of what building the local church may look like. Over the last two years, World Compassion has sent significant amounts of humanitarian aid for refugees in Iraq, and every piece of it has been distributed through local pastors on the ground. Refugees do not see “World Compassion” stamped on everything, rather they get one-on-one interaction with local churches who are caring for their needs and inviting them into discipleship. Our partnership with the local church makes our work together exponentially more impactful.

2. Empowering People

An effective non-profit will not only use its donor resources to provide material items that alleviate immediate needs but also empower the people receiving them to build a brighter future for themselves. This concept goes back to the old analogy of “teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime” rather than feeding him for a day.

Effective non-profits do not come in and try to be the star, increasingly making the people they serve more dependent on their services. The most effective non-profits give hand-ups rather than hand-outs. It is possible to meet needs while equipping those you’re serving to increasingly meet their own needs in the future.

One need World Compassion is addressing, while equipping the people we serve, is finding leaders for the underground Chinese Church. We have addressed this problem long-term by devoting our resources to develop training programs for local Chinese leaders rather than sending pastors from our own churches. We don’t believe the Western Church is the solution, but rather we have resources that we can equip our brothers and sisters with to be their own solution.

3. Unity Within the Body 

As Christians, we know it is God’s purpose for all believers to “reach unity in the faith” (Eph. 4:13). This is our ultimate destination. Does the non-profit you’re in which you are interested value and actively work to foster unity among Christians and other organizations?

As it relates to every day work, non-profits shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. We are better when we work together! So many ministries and organizations are making huge strides in the same areas with similar (or better) methods – why wouldn’t they work together to solve their common crisis rather than compete for donations? The humility required to work together in unity honors God. We also know God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6), increasing the impact of our work!

Think this value is too idealistic? United action is already happening all over the world (and we believe will only increase as we get nearer to Jesus’ return)! World Compassion has partnered with many other Christian organizations and local churches in Iraq to better reach refugees in the Middle East – In His Image, More Than A Game, Feed the Hungry, and more! As a united team, we have been able to provide food, evangelism, medical care, soccer camps, counseling, discipleship, and church planting.

Had World Compassion been narrowly focused on reaching refugees alone, our impact would have been significantly decreased. When we work together, we can exponentially increase the impact we make and the people we are able to reach.

4. Financial Transparency 

When you are financially supporting a non-profit, you are extending your trust to the team behind the mission. You should be able to give with confidence every time, knowing every penny will be used wisely and strategically. A credible non-profit will recognize your trust and honor it with honest and transparent reporting.

There are a couple of great sources you can use to retrieve accurate background information on the non-profit you may be looking at.

1. GuideStar contains records from 1.8 million nonprofits registered with the Internal Revenue Service and provides access to each organization’s Form 990, the basic IRS filing document for non-profits in the US.

2. You can visit Charity Navigator to review non-profits based on their tax status, sources of revenue, length of operation, spending practices and more.

3. You can also visit the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) website to look at member organizations that have been accredited by ECFA.

These three resources can give you an insider’s perspective on the non-profit you’re interested in. You should feel confident every step of the way, so do your homework!


Choosing a non-profit that inspires you is a great way to be a part of a team that is making a difference. Finding a non-profit who values building the local church, empowering people, unity in the Body of Christ, and financial transparency will help ensure that you are giving to an effective team and mission.
World Compassion provides email blasts, monthly newsletters, social media posts and videos that provide clear view of our values as a team. Check us out and see if what we are doing aligns with what your heart is seeking!

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