It’s always good to give. To give from our hearts, according to our beliefs, and in-line with our vision for the world we want to live in. There is a renewed emphasis now as we enter the giving season. You will notice more advertisements on television for national nonprofits with compelling images and music; more social media campaigns; more letters and cards coming via US mail; more phone calls – from volunteers and paid solicitors; and more one-on-one conversations about giving.
Here are five things to help you make giving decisions that unite your heart and mind.
- What are your giving priorities? What is important to you? Do you want to help end poverty? Increase access to the arts, childcare, affordable housing, or college education? What about curing cancer, improving neighborhood safety, supporting long-term social change, or teaching children to read? Are you committed to international aid that builds local economies or treats people with Ebola or HIV?
- What types of organizations do you want to support? Local nonprofits? National or international agencies? Your church, synagogue, temple or mosque? A community foundation, women’s foundation, giving circle, or black united fund? Is it important to give to a recognized nonprofit, or are you comfortable giving directly to people you know make a difference, regardless of their formal structure?
- How well do you know the organizations you give to? Which are registered charitable organizations? Which have a website with information? Is there anyone you can call to ask questions? Have you looked up the nonprofit at guidestar.org? This website provides information including funds raised and use of funds (Form 990). Just type in their name.
- What is your giving budget? How much can you give? How much do you want to give? Know your budget so you can respond to specific solicitations. Consider automatic contributions from your credit card or bank account. Do you want to continue these? Increase them? Decrease? Have you received acknowledgements for these gifts, or an update regarding the impact of your giving?
- Don’t fall prey to in-person or on-line peer pressure. Keep your giving joyous! Know who and what you want to support, and make your decisions accordingly. You are under no obligation to give to any organization, even if you gave before. Nor are you under an obligation to increase your gift. These are voluntary decisions. Take a moment to evaluate emotional appeals – especially online requests – to see if the actual work of the organization is in line with your priorities. Multiple small impulsive gifts add up over time: you may find you’re “over budget” or that your giving is not in-line with what’s important to you.
Most importantly, look inside to see if your giving reflects what’s in your heart.
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.