The holidays are a time for love and generosity, and giving gifts is one of the wonderful ways we express love and strengthen our communities. As you consider your end-of-year giving, these ideas might help you give well this holiday season.
If you’re like many Americans this holiday season, you don’t have a lot of extra cash on hand, and you want to make sure that your end-of-year donation is used in the way you think it should be used.
I’ve spent most of my career in the nonprofit world—both in programs and fundraising—and working with nonprofit organizations of all sizes and diverse missions has given me a fascinating look into how these organizations function
If you’re keen on choosing the right recipient of your generosity, here are a few tips:
Choose why to give. Before you make a gift to the first organization you think of, consider why you want to give. Do you see specific problems in society, and want to help? Are you feeling guilty after seeing that picture of the hungry kids? Did you just read an inspirational letter or watch an inspirational advertisement?
These are all valid reasons to give but understanding your own motivation for giving will assist you when you start hunting for the right recipient of your generosity. If you know why you want to give, choosing a recipient becomes easier.
Choose who to give to. Once you understand why you want to give, you have to figure out who to give to. This can be overwhelming because there are so many organizations out there. My personal advice: stay specific and stay local. Do your best to think of organizations that tackle specific problems, instead of general issues.
“Ending poverty in America” sounds good, but a homeless dining hall which provides 1,000 meals a day is much more realistic—and a nonprofit with the latter goal likely understands the specifics of how to achieve their goal much better than a group with the former goal. If you want to give to groups doing work internationally, ensure they are extremely specific in how they will achieve their goals.
You don’t want your hard-earned money to go to waste, or to support an effort that you disagree with. Avoiding those pitfalls is possible by reflecting on the underlying factors and the specific school of thought which you believe will solve the problem you’ve identified. It is important to avoid giving to groups whose leaders you can trust if you want to see your gift make a positive change in your community in the way you want it to.
Choose what to give to (and understand how that gift will be used). You have a few options here: you can make many small donations to a wide variety of groups, or a few big donations to groups you love. There are great arguments to be made for both approaches—what’s important, though, is thinking through what you want to achieve.
If you make a general donation, the nonprofit is allowed to use that gift wherever it’s most needed. By and large, general donations are your best bet, because they allow the organization to use that money wherever they can see the most need—something you can only know from the inside.
It’s also a vote of confidence for an organization, since a general gift will assume that they’ll use your money for good. General donations should be saved for groups which you are confident will do good work.
Many nonprofits allow you to make gifts to specific parts of their mission. This is a great way to ensure your money supports exactly what you want it to. If you are making a big gift, you might want to call the nonprofit about making a gift to a specific part of their mission, and the staff will ensure no mistakes are made.
The holidays are a time for love and generosity, and giving gifts is one of the wonderful ways we express love and strengthen our communities. As you consider your end-of-year giving, I hope these ideas might help you give well this holiday season.