By Cherri Walrod – Founder and Director of Resources4adoption.com © April 2012
I receive questions on a regular basis from families who are concerned about whether a particular adoption grant or loan organization is legitimate or not. Just about every day we hear reports in the media about fraud and how innocent people are being taken advantage of. Indeed, you should be concerned and very cautious!
I have spent countless hours over the last ten years researching adoption grants and loans. During my research, I like to look into the background and review the financial history of these organizations. As you might imagine, it is a very time consuming and frustrating task. It is really a calling for me and I am committed to this work because it ensures that you will always have access to the most accurate and up-to-date adoption financing information. This information is critical to many families just like yours, and, without it, many of you would never be able to make your dream of adoption a reality.
When you are confused or concerned about an adoption grant or loan organizations, refer to the seven tips outlined below. While you may not be able to apply all seven to each and every organization, this will serve as your guide. If you have any questions or concerns about an organization, please be sure to contact me. I will be happy to help you in any way that I can.
1. Transparency - Do you have the ability to see clearly into their financial records?
An organization should have its financial records readily available for you to view. It speaks well of an organization that has its financial records readily available for you to view, especially if you can quickly find them on their Web site.
2. Accountability – Are you able to determine if they are accountable to other similar organizations in the industry?
I recommend that you look for a seal of approval or membership in some kind of an accountability organization. Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Charity Navigator, Ministry Watch and Independent Charities of America are just a few examples of these types of organizations.
If you notice that an organization is not a member of one of these groups, don’t panic. They may still be very legitimate. However, I prefer to see the membership, because it usually means that they have complied with high standards for excellence, integrity, ethical practices, accountability, and transparency in regards to their business practices. If they are not a member of an accountability group, don’t lose hope. You may need to take more time to check further into their background and verify their history through some of the other tips offered in this article.
3. Contactability – How easy or difficult is it to make contact with a real person?
You should be able to contact members or staff of the organization by phone or email. They also should have a real physical address listed and not just a P.O. Box. When you contact them, you should expect a timely response from a member of their team.
4. Verifiability – Can you verify that they are who they say they are and they have actually helped others?
The organization should be able to provide a list of satisfied clients or have a listing of testimonials on their Web site. We all know that privacy can be a touchy subject these days, but most reputable organizations are able to provide quotes or testimonials from families that they have helped. If they cannot provide some reference families for you to talk to, this may be a red flag. Most people who have received help are generally willing to talk about how wonderful the group is that provided the help.
5. Reliability – Do they have any ratings, status or complaints with the Better Business Bureau?
You can go to the Better Business Bureau Web site at http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/ and look up the organization in question. The organization may or may not be listed, but chances are if they have wronged too many people, they will have some sort of complaint filed against them. You can also check out the listing of national charities that are currently participating in the BBB Wise Giving Alliance's National Charity Seal Program at this link http://charityreports.bbb.org/public/participants.asp.
6. Securibility – How do they plan to secure your private information and keep it that way?
7. Reputation – Are they in good standing with the IRS?
Since most adoption grant (and some adoption loan) organizations are non-profits they are required to file a Form 990 with the IRS annually. Guide Star is one organization where members can login and review the 990 forms filed by non-profit organizations. Since I am a Guide Star member, I regularly review the financial records for many adoption grant and loan organizations. Keep in mind that if you choose to review the 990 forms, many times they are at least 30 plus pages long. It can obviously take a long time to pour through that many pages and try to make “heads or tails” out of what is going on. For more information about IRS filing guidelines for non-profit organizations, you can visit IRS Web site here. http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/index.html
I trust these tips will save you time and frustration so that you can spend your time focusing on what’s really important…building your family!
Cherri Walrod is mom to six children and the Founder and Director of Resources4Adoption.com. Resources4Adoption.com is the #1 educational resource for adoptive families seeking financial assistance. From help in writing compelling grant and loan applications to providing tips for fundraisers, Resources4Adoption offers personalized support for each family.