Expert Perspectives – Giving with Your Heart and Your Head

Givinga is pleased to announce Expert Perspectives, a new series of blog posts featuring one of our many partners on topics that are currently trending in the world of giving.  We’re proud to launch this initiative with Jocelyn Bishop.  Jocelyn is a philanthropic and nonprofit advisor who helps individuals and families make impactful contributions and nonprofits operate more successfully.  She has a deep understanding of nonprofit finance, governance, and operations through her professional experiences, which have included executive roles in PwC’s nonprofit tax practice and Harvard Management Company (Harvard’s endowment). Her current roles include consultant, nonprofit board member, treasurer, endowment chair, and writer.  She is passionate about making a positive impact on society and developing professional relationships with others who share her commitment.

Jocelyn can be reached at philanthropyforoneandall@gmail.com

 

The time between Thanksgiving and the New Year is one of my favorite times to take stock in what I am thankful for and how I might be able to provide help to those in need.  It’s also the time of year where charities’ annual appeals are coming at us left and right.  So many worthy causes, but how do you decide where to give?

If you’re like most people, you give reactively: to the causes your friends champion and ask for your assistance; to the organizations you’ve always given to, even if you don’t remember why you started giving to them; or to the charities that ask for your help, right when you’re planning to make your year-end donations.  If this approach to giving isn’t helping you feel like you’re making a difference, consider a more mindful and proactive approach using these 9 steps:

  1. Keep in mind: your contributions make a difference! There are over 1.5 million charities in the U.S. alone, and the large majority of their contribution revenue comes from donors just like you.
  2. Determine the cause(s) closest to your heart. What cause or causes would get you out of bed on a cold, dark, and rainy morning to fight for because they are so important to you?  Some charitable causes are:
    • Social justice
    • Animal rights
    • The environment
    • Education
    • Religion
  3. Consider the ways in which different charities approach your chosen causes. Some charities provide direct assistance to those in need while others address the root causes of social problems.  Some do both.  Which approach do you feel is most needed, or do you want to support both?
  4. Think locally and globally. Charities are close to home and around the world.  Is it more meaningful to you to support causes in your town and state, or the same causes in other countries, which may have fewer resources?
  5. Money is not the only contribution you can make. Consider volunteering for a worthy cause, where your time and talent can be just as valued, if not more, by the charity.  Volunteering provides you an up-front and personal experience with the charity and a deeper connection with its mission.
  6. Talk to people. Talk is not overrated if it’s productive!  Engage with your family and friends by asking what are their favorite charities.  Within your own nuclear family, discuss the causes important to them and if they’re aware of charities doing good work in those areas.
  7. Research your charitable investment. Just as you research where your money will be best invested for your retirement, you should also research which charities will do the best work with your contributions, or what I like to call “charitable investments.”  Thanks to the internet, this is easy to do.  Two of the most popular websites to assist your research are Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org) and Guidestar (www.guidestar.org).  Your State Attorney General’s office also is a great resource.
  8. Executive Directors are people too! After you’ve been giving to a charity for a while and would like to make a more substantial gift, don’t be shy about reaching out to the organization’s Executive Director to talk about how they would use your contribution and how you would like to see it used.  Charities love to receive gifts that have no restrictions placed on them (“unrestricted gifts”) because the funds can be used where the organization needs them most and at any time.  However, if the amount is more substantial (varies by charity), the charity’s Executive Director will be a great partner in helping to establish restrictions that will work for you and the charity.
  9. Have fun! The kings of ice cream, Ben and Jerry, have a wonderful saying – “If it’s not fun, why do it?”  Don’t make giving yet another chore on the to-do list.  Think about ways that will make giving most meaningful and joyful to you, whether it’s through connecting personally with a beneficiary of your chosen charity’s services or rejoicing in the knowledge that your gifts make a difference to others.  When contributions are made to charities that are doing great work, everyone wins.

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