Holiday charitable giving seems to reach a fevered pitch in December as we meet the deadline for tax write-offs. Here are a few tips for making sure your holiday charitable giving leaves you feeling fulfilled and joyful.
Most of us have causes near and dear to our hearts. Think about which societal issues (e.g., education, environment, arts, music, poverty, helping people find employment, mentoring young people, etc.) really peaks your interest. Which of these, if a meaningful change for the better could take place, would really make you feel terrific? Push yourself to narrow down to only a few so you aren’t spreading your donations and energies too thin. The best satisfaction generally comes from giving to what we care about most. This connection 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, whose son was murdered. For me, my very best childhood friend died from cancer, so I am always open to supporting organizations that deal with cancer-related issues.
Not all organizations are worthy of your hard earned money or energies. The failure of the nonprofit, Family Connections, a few years ago due to the executive director’s very clever and well-hidden theft, makes us realize that vetting the organizations which will receive our philanthropy is especially important. Making sure they are financially stable and well-run are two steps in the right direction. There are many tools to help with this process including www.guidestar.org and www.charitynavigator.org. Even better is personally knowing someone in a leadership position with the organization, if possible.
In some cases, especially for small donations, you will likely make a gift and hope for the best without any follow-up. In the case of larger gifts it is not out of line to request follow-up and you should define 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 nonprofit organization so they will provide you what you are looking for and when you expect to receive it.
Knowing the results of your donation will not only enable you to decide whether to give again but also feel gratified in ‘closing the loop’, good news or bad.
Most of us approach philanthropy from the viewpoint of scarcity, worrying that we don’t ever have enough to go around, so whatever we give needs to be carefully parsed from our seemingly meager resources. In reality, many of us, if we look at what we really need, then look at how much could be done with the ‘leftover,’ would give joyfully to help those causes that touch our hearts. In the words of Lynne Twist, professional philanthropist, “Money is a current, a carrier, a conduit for our intentions. Money carries the imprimatur of our soul.”
Don’t forget that, in many cases, a gift of your time as a volunteer, and especially of a specific skill, such as fund raising or marketing or accounting, may be as welcome as money. As long as the receiving organization really needs what you are offering, the gift of skill or time can defray expenses or improve the organization’s capacity. A ‘labor of love’ can be a great way to create a rewarding giving experience.
Another way to leverage your holiday charitable giving is through businesses that give back to the community as part of their business model, giving a portion of their revenue or profits to charity. Known by names such as social entrepreneurs, social innovators, or conscious capitalism firms, purchasing from these companies can further leverage your philanthropy by spending where part of your money will be, in turn, given away. Some great examples are:
I hope you will use these tips to maximize the impact of your holiday charitable giving!
Prime Women provides a platform for our contributors to tell others about causes they care deeply about. However, we have done no vetting of any kind of the organizations and make no formal or implied recommendations of these charities.