When we give to a charity (especially now during National Diabetes Month), we assume that our hard-earned money is going toward the organization’s stated goal. In the case of diabetes charities such as the JDRF or American Diabetes Association, we assume that funds for the Walk for a Cure or Tour de Cure go toward just that – a cure for diabetes.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Unless you specify where you want your money to go, charities can use your donation for projects that may conflict with your priorities and values. For example, if a type 1 cure is the most important outcome for you and your family, you must legally stipulate that your donation supports a type 1 cure. Otherwise, your donation could be used for awareness campaigns for diabetes or type 2 treatment research.

The Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance has developed an easy way to ensure that your money goes where you want it to, regardless of the charity or the amount. The four S’s of good giving serve as a guide to help you legally ensure that your donation goes toward programs that match your values. Follow these guidelines below and take back control of the giving process:

1) Strategy: Know your objective. You want to help others with diabetes, but are you interested in supporting a type 1 cure? Type 2 treatment? Overall awareness? Do some soul-searching and some Google-searching to determine what’s meaningful to you.
2) Select: Pick an organization that has the professionalism and expertise to deliver your objective. Someone wanting to support both types 1 and 2 might not donate to the JDRF, an organization focused exclusively on type 1. If a given charity spends the majority of donations on awareness when you want a cure, you might be better off choosing a different organization. Check out reports from the organization and third-party sources to make sure the nonprofit’s spending, vision and track record match your expectations.
 3) Stipulate: Be specific about exactly what you would like your gift used for and attach it in writing to your donation. Stipulation still means that you’re donating directly to the charity and supporting its mission, but you’re giving on your terms. A stipulation letter takes five minutes to fill out, but it ensures that your money is going toward your intended cause.
4) Substantiate: Follow-up and ask questions about how the money is used. Even if the organization doesn’t list the fate of your donation on its website, speak up! It’s the right of every donor to receive an answer on how his/her donation was allocated. If donors don’t ask, charities can’t be held accountable for their actions.
These tips aren’t only for those giving a large amount. A donor giving $2 has the same rights as someone giving $2 million. Don’t relinquish ownership of your dollar after giving. Think of yourself as a shareholder and a partner in the organization’s mission.

Similarly, you don’t have to follow all four S’s in a rigid format. You can follow one or all of them to enhance the donation process. For example, substantiating a donation from last year’s Walk to Cure Diabetes will still enhance your relationship with the nonprofit and allow you to assert your rights as a donor. If you have a friend raising money for a particular fundraiser and intend to give, the select portion may be completed for you – but there is still value in substantiating and ensuring that your funds go to a project you support within that particular organization.

Not sure where to start strategizing? Check out the donor resources on the JDCA’s website to help you choose the charity that aligns with your wishes and legally stipulate where your donation goes.