For many, charitable giving is something of an afterthought. You hear about a natural disaster in the news, or maybe find out your church is taking up a special collection for the homeless. You open your checkbook along with your heart and give.
What could be wrong with that?
Nothing. But if circumstances drive all of your philanthropy, there is a better way.
What You Should Know
Recently I read an article on best practices for philanthropic organizations, and I realized that much of the advice could apply to individual giving as well.
So whether you simply donate to causes you believe in, or have an actual family foundation you channel giving through, here are some tips to make that giving more impactful.
More bang for your charitable buck
What You Should Do
The first piece of advice is, don’t just wait for someone to come along with a good story, and then write them a check. Instead, give yourself a mission in life. Do you want to fight hunger, or maybe help cure a disease?
There are many ways to make the world better. The Raspberry Pi Foundation designs and sells palm-sized computer CPUs for as little as $5. They can be attached to a keyboard and monitor to bring Internet access and the learning of programming to the world’s poorest people.
But you don’t have to restrict your thinking to material problems. People in some places lack political rights we take for granted, such as freedom of speech and religion. There are groups working on such issues that would welcome your involvement.
If you need help identifying potential recipients of your giving, GuideStar http://www.guidestar.org/Home.aspx is a good place to start. They have information on thousands of nonprofits.
Another consideration is whether you want to focus your giving globally or in your own backyard. Either way, start by learning something about the problem you’d like to impact. Get to know people who are currently working to solve it. Learn how they (and their organizations) operate.
All of this doesn’t have to take a huge amount of time, although one person in the family might want to specialize in it. Alternatively, each member of the family could identify their own favorite causes and ways to help.
Finally, have a method to track the results of your giving. The best charities have ways to measure their own effectiveness. Don’t be afraid to ask about it.
These tips can make your charitable giving not only more impactful, but also more meaningful to you. In fact, you might come to feel you are getting more out of it than you give. That could lead to even greater generosity, and help you to better enjoy the good things in your life as well.
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