Foundation Beyond Belief adapts a fluid approach to beneficiary selection


AJ ChalomBy AJ Chalom, Humanist Giving Program Coordinator

Foundation Beyond Belief launched the Humanist Giving program in 2010. Over time, we have slowly evolved our process of selecting each quarter’s beneficiaries. We take this process very seriously, since the beneficiaries we support, feature, and partner with say as much about Foundation Beyond Belief as our mission statement.

We maintain a large selection of nominated and interesting charities in our charity database (many of which were nominated by members and our community). Each quarter, a list of priority charities is compiled in each of the five beneficiary categories: Poverty and Health, Education, Human Rights, the Natural World, and Challenge the Gap. We also support charities through our Small Grants and the Humanist Crisis Response program.

Criteria that staff and interns concentrate on when vetting are (in no particular order):

  • Religious Affiliation: We make every attempt to ensure that the charity exemplifies the values of compassionate humanism and is not affiliated with any religious organization (except in the case of Challenge the Gap nominees). In the Challenge the Gap category, we search for liberal religious and interfaith organizations that share our values, do not exclude people from their services based on religion, and do not proselytize during their charitable operations.
  • Size: Currently, we only consider charities with a yearly budget of no more than $50 million (except for Crisis Response), although we attempt to find meaningful organizations with a mid-sized budget of less than $5 million so that we can make the greatest impact with our donations. In 2013, we supported an organization with a $40,000 yearly budget (Water Ecuador, a Pathfinders Project host and clean water project) and one with a $400 million budget (International Rescue Committee, the beneficiary for our Syrian refugee Humanist Crisis Response drive).
  • Efficiency and Quality: We emphasize quality review and scientific data to support the organization’s efforts. We look for a charity that has a strong, external review of their process. We also look at strategic plans, past performance, and internal reviews to help us determine this important quality. We take advantage of multiple websites doing reviews of effectiveness for different programs. Beneficiaries that were particularly strong in this area include Apopo and
  • Financial Stability: There is new research supporting the concept that having high salary rates among top staff at an organization is an asset for charity selection due to the organization’s ability to attract and keep quality staff in the nonprofit sector. When FBB staff look at an organization’s financial documents, we look at the stability or growth of income, a healthy reserve, and a reasonable approach to professional fundraising, ensuring fundraising expenses are effective to raise money for the organization and do not exceed about 25-30% of the budget maximum.
  • United Nations Millennium Development Goals: In 2013, we began to analyze our past beneficiaries in terms of how they support the UN Millennium Development Goals. You can learn more about the UN Millennium Development Goals on our blog. Particularly with organizations working abroad, we try to ensure we are addressing a broad range of these goals in our beneficiaries.
  • The Intangibles: Is an organization updating its web presence? Are its projects innovative? Will our members connect with the mission of the beneficiary? We ask these questions particularly while narrowing down finalists in a category.
  • Request for Proposal process: New for 2014, we are developing a Request for Proposal (RFP) process, inviting previously vetted organizations to send us a proposal asking for support for a particular program. We have already released the Human Rights and Natural World versions of the RFP. We are using this strategy to pinpoint specific projects that our prospective beneficiaries need extra support to continue, or new initiatives that are not fully funded. We are inviting organizations that have interested our staff, but that we feel we need more information about before we fund them. Our debut RFP beneficiary is the Ali Forney Center, in the Human Rights category.

Along with these research areas, we seriously take into account staff and intern comments to make final recommendations to our Board of the Directors, who in turn approve the final slate of beneficiaries each quarter.

Members, if you’d like to adjust your donation allocation for our new first-quarter slate of beneficiaries, click “Manage Donation” on the right side of the page.