In my line of work, people often ask me, “How do I decide which groups to give a gift to?” There’s no wrong way to be generous … yet there are so many wonderful groups to support and the need is so great, it can be quite a challenge to make giving decisions that you feel good about. Here are some steps I recommend to people who want to have a specific impact with their giving.
It can be helpful to start by thinking about what issues are most important to you. Make a list. Then you can think about the kinds of groups you want to support who work on this issue--for example: do you want to support advocacy organizations, social service groups or both?
From that point, start a list of criteria. Your criteria can include: budget size (small groups or large?), location (local, national, international?), or specific accomplishments. The more criteria you have, the more complicated it is. Keep your criteria as simple as you can so you can focus on what really matters to you.
Examples of criteria that some donors have shared with me:
• I like to give to groups that support the environment, in particular urban environmental problems.
• I am looking for groups that have a proven track record of success.
Why create a criteria list instead of just making a list of groups? It increases the chances you’ll be consistent when considering giving to any particular group.
Once you have your criteria figured out, then make your list of possible groups to support. You can do more research to find groups you’re interested in supporting, or you may want to look more closely at groups that you already know based on your criteria. Having quick and easy criteria can simplify your deliberations when specific groups approach you.
You can look at a group’s website or materials to figure out if they fit your criteria, but that may not be enough. I’ve found Guidestar to be a useful site when I want to dig a little deeper into a nonprofit’s background. In just a couple of minutes you can confirm a group’s non-profit status (if that matters to you), see information about their financial position, and see who are in leadership positions.
There’s no wrong way to be generous. Whatever you do, always remember that when you make gifts to groups in the community, you’re making a difference.