Do you know a philanthropist? I bet you do. In fact, you might be one yourself. If you make contributions to a community organization or your house of worship, you are a philanthropist. Tutoring at a local elementary school makes you a philanthropist, too. So does serving meals at a local shelter or helping clean up a city park.
Philanthropy is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, nor is it the exclusive domain of the wealthy.
A Guide to Giving Well
If you are new to charitable giving, or if you want to be more effective with your philanthropy, here are some steps to help you discover the joy of making a difference.
- Define your philanthropic focus. Start by reflecting on the issues you most wish to address. What would you like to either sustain or change in the world? Whether your primary interests are education, healthcare, environmental conservation, or animal welfare, identifying this focus with give you purpose and direction.
- Determine whether you wish to focus locally, nationally, or globally. This will help you narrow your choices of charitable recipients and evaluate the impact you have with your giving.
- Research and identify organizations to support. A simple Google search can help you identify organizations working in the issue area you want to address. Then, make sure they align with your values and the change you wish to effect. Are they transparent about their leadership, activities, finances, and impact? Are they guided by knowledgeable staff with the necessary expertise? Online platforms such as Charity Navigator and Candid can be helpful in researching and evaluating charities. (See my earlier blog post on charity ratings for a discussion of these tools.)
- Determine your philanthropic budget. Consider your income, savings, and other financial goals when setting a budget or target amount for annual giving or giving over time. Then, consider how much you want to focus on your key issue areas and whether to retain some portion of your charitable budget for emerging or urgent needs, like the aftermath of a natural disaster.
- Explore different ways to be philanthropic. Philanthropy goes beyond financial contributions. Explore other ways to give, such as volunteering your time and skills, organizing fundraising events, or advocating for causes you care about. These hands-on experiences can deepen your connection to the cause and provide a holistic approach to making a difference.
- Engage with the not-for-profit community. Connect with nonprofits and actively engage with their work. Attend events, workshops, and webinars to gain insights into the issues they address. Establish relationships with organization representatives and beneficiaries to understand the real impact of your contributions.
- Evaluate and monitor impact. As you become more involved in philanthropy, develop a system to evaluate the impact of your contributions. Look for progress reports, success stories, and feedback from the organizations you support. This information will help you assess the effectiveness of your giving and make informed decisions over time.
Embarking on a philanthropic journey can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. By following these steps to be intentional with your giving, you are well on your way to making a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
This article was written in collaboration with ChatGPT.