In two earlier posts I discussed charitable giving. Now, as year-end is approaching, my mailbox is filling with solicitations from a multitude of non-profits. (Yours is probably filling too.) As I do intend to gift a budgeted amount this year to more than one non-profit, I thought it worthwhile to revisit two articles I’ve read and also to dig deeper into the subject of charitable giving. I’d like my giving to be more logical and systematic, and not just a more-or-less thoughtless response to an appeal with heart-tugging photos of children or cats, etc., or for important health, environmental, or other concerns. With that as background, I’ll strive to assemble and summarize information that may be of help to both me and you with our charitable donations.
First, as an underlying principal or personal philosophy, since the money I will give means something to me, I’ll strive to ensure the gifts will be meaningful to each recipient organization and thereby gives a boost to its on the ground work. With that principal in place, and a gifting budget to be spread around to several organizations, I’ve concluded I should target small, thrifty organizations doing work that is aligned with my interests and/or concerns.
I say “target” because there are many, many non-profits (nearly 2 million in the U.S. alone), and finding the more worthy ones is a more sensible (to me) approach than just responding to solicitations.
I say “small” organizations because my gift won’t move the needle at any large, multimillion dollar budget organization (such as many, if not most, hospitals, universities, art museums, etc.). The idea of giving where my money would in all likelihood disappear into a big-budget operation wouldn’t feel particularly satisfying, a consideration when planning gifts. You also may know this from experience.
So how might one construct an approach to giving that is aligned with one’s desire to make a difference yet sized to one’s wallet? For a good starting point, I suggest reading a recent (12/6/13) article from the New York Times, Making a Difference in This Season of Giving.
This article also serves as a pointer to excellent resources, which offer many ideas/suggestions on organizations to consider. Excellent sources of relevant information include:
The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania. “Established in the spring of 2006 by the dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice and a small group of anonymous Wharton alumni, the Center provides independent analysis, education and other decision making tools for donors concerned with maximizing the social impact of their funds. To meet our goal of providing smart, practical guidance to donors who care about impact, we synthesize the best available information from three domains: research, informed opinion and field experience. We believe the most promising opportunities exist where the recommendations of these three domains overlap.”
TheLifeYouCanSave.org by Princeton Bioethics Professor Peter Singer, “a movement of people fighting extreme poverty. We hold that an ethical life involves using some of our wealth and resources to save and improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.”
GivingWhatWeCan.org, “an international society dedicated to eliminating poverty in the developing world.”
Innovations for Poverty Action is “a nonprofit dedicated to discovering what works to help the world’s poor. We design and evaluate programs in real contexts with real people, and provide hands-on assistance to bring successful programs to scale.”
If you were to spend a portion of an hour on some or all of the above sites, I’m sure you’ll become more and better informed about the worthy giving opportunities that abound.
Finally, given it is nearly year-end, and giving is often somewhat motivated by tax considerations, the Wall Street Journal recently published (12/6/13) a bird’s eye view of some of the issues. Hopefully, the article, “Giving and getting: tax-savvy ways to be charitable now ,” will continue to be available at WSJ.com.
1) Guidestar.org is an outstanding source for data on U.S. based non-profits. For example, federal tax returns on over 1.8 million non-profits can be accessed at Guidestar free of cost! Also, for the really curious, their large database can be searched on variables including keyword, city, state, subject, and the org’s size.
2) Lest the reader sense I am advocating a severely narrow view of possible giving opportunities, that is not the case. I’m trying to say, first, that one should be proactive in the matter. Second, in the interest of time I’ve relied upon a recent newspaper article as a springboard to discuss giving. The NYTimes.com article mentioned worthy organizations with an interest in poverty, so that is naturally what I’ve written about here. In the future I expect to write about opportunities in at least one other domain, water/saltwater.