Donating sound like a full-time job. I think it is!
- Be proactive: If you find yourself considering a gift to a charity that called you on the phone, you’ve already lost most of the battle to do as much good as possible. Your money will go furthest if you set time aside, think about all your options, and go find the best charity for your values. If you wait for charities to come to you, you’re just rewarding the ones that are most aggressive—not the ones that do the best.
- Be open minded about the cause you’re going to support: The amount you can accomplish with your donation varies widely from cause to cause to cause. But, even if you’re not ready to shift you’re giving that much, you can improve your impact just by broadening your scope. Consider organizations that work outside your community as opposed to just considering local ones. Are you interested in supporting your local community? Consider multiple different categories of organization—job training programs, schools, food banks, etc. The more you’re open to different options, the more likely you’ll be to find and support outstanding—not just acceptable—organizations.
- Ask organizations to make a case that their programs work: For example, if you pick a school, ask them why they think they’re improving academic performance for their students; ask them why they think they’re doing a better job than a similar school you could support; ask them for any data they have that supports their case.
- Ask organizations how they’d use additional funding: It’s one thing for an organization to have accomplished great things in the past. But, if you’re sharing today, you really need to focus on what they’ll do in the future and how your donation—and other future donations—will make a difference. Some organizations may have a pressing need for funds such that additional money this year will allow them to expand services. Others may already have enough in the bank such that your donation will only grow an already-safe level of reserves. Alternatively, the organization may be so small that money isn’t the bottleneck to expansion, and it can’t effectively expand even with more money.
- When you donate, donate cash—no strings attached: You’re just a part-time donor, but the charity you’re supporting does this full-time and staff there probably know a lot more about how to do their job than you do. If you’ve found a charity that you feel is excellent —not just acceptable—then it makes sense to trust the charity to make good decisions about how to spend your money.
- Check back a year later and see whether the organization met its commitments: When asking about the organizations about their room for more funding or evidence of impact, you heard about plans they had for the coming year. Check back to see how their activities and results match up.