Giving seems to take on added urgency in December each year as we consider our tax write-offs. Many people partake in end of year giving, but it doesn’t have to be something you do just because everyone else does. End of year giving is a chance to help others and create feelings of joy within yourself. Here are a few tips for making sure your donations leave you feeling gratified rather than as just a numbers exercise.
The best gratification comes from giving to what we care about most. This connectedness to a cause is how Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children got started. The former from a mother’s grief at losing her child to a drunk driving accident and the latter, from John Walsh, who lost his son to a murderer. We all know people who support a cause due to life circumstances. For me, my very best childhood friend died from cancer so I am always open to supporting organizations that deal with cancer-related issues.
Most of us have causes that naturally appeal to us. Think about which societal issues really speak your interest. Do you care for the environment, arts, music? Or do you want to support ending poverty and homelessness? There are many causes to choose from including education, workforce development/employment, mentoring young people and more. Which of these, if meaningful progress could be made, would really make you feel terrific? Challenge yourself to choose only a handful so that your donations and energies are meaningful and not spread too thin.
Not all organizations are worthy of your hard-earned money or energies. The failure of the nonprofit Family Connections, a few years ago in Austin, Texas, due to the executive director’s very clever and well-hidden theft, helps us realize that scrutinizing the organizations which might receive your philanthropy is important. Two steps in the right direction are to make sure that they are 1) financially stable and 2) well-run. There are many tools to help with this process, like Guide Star and Charity Navigator. Better yet is personally knowing someone in a leadership position with the organization, whether the CEO/Executive Director or a board member, who can vouch for these two considerations.
In many cases, especially for small donations, you should expect to make a gift and hope for the best without any substantial scrutiny. However, in the case of larger gifts, it is perfectly reasonable to request follow-up, defining how you will evaluate your gift. For example, what are the goals of the organization and did the program achieve the expected results? What was learned while implementing the program? What changes will be made to improve results? Make sure to share your expectations with the recipient nonprofit organization so they know your request in advance and can provide you what you are looking for on time. Understanding the results of your donation enables you to decide whether to give again and also feel satisfied with the knowledge of what happened with your gift.
Remember that, in many cases, giving your time as a volunteer might be as welcome as money. Especially if you have a highly prized skill such as fundraising or marketing or accounting. As long as the receiving organization really needs what you are offering, the gift of your time can help avoid expenses and/or improve the organization’s capacity. A ‘labor of love’ can be a wonderful way to create a rewarding giving experience for you and a meaningful gift for them.
Another way to leverage your giving is to buy from businesses that give back to the community. As part of their business model, some companies give a portion of their revenue or profits to charity. Purchasing from these types of companies can further leverage your philanthropy by spending where some of your money will, in turn, be given away. Some great examples are:
Find joy and goodness in your end of year giving this year. Use these tips to help you really love your philanthropy!