Five Tips to Giving Effectively

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” 
—Winston Churchill

The Giving Season
It’s November, that time of year when we often open our hearts, and wallets, to cherished causes. The 15th was National Philanthropy Day, which, since 1986, has been celebrating charitable activities. The 27th is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving created in 2012 as a deliberate counter to the consumption focus of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And of course, in the middle of it all, falling on the 22nd this year, is the big day itself: Thanksgiving. 

The giving season continues through the end of the year. According to the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact, November and December account for between 25% and 30% of annual charitable giving in the U.S.

Americans are Giving
Some quick facts on giving:

  • Annual charitable giving in the U.S. surpassed $400 billion for the first time in 2017 to reach $410.02 billion for the year1
  • Individual donations continue to comprise the bulk of giving, at 70% of total giving, followed by foundations, bequests and corporations1
  • Approximately 91% of high net worth households give to charity2
  • Online giving continues to grow and now makes up almost 8% of all fundraising revenue3

 

Giving Successfully 
Choose with your heart —
 there are any number of worthy causes out there. Select a cause or causes that reflect your values, focus or family mission. You’ll feel a sense of fulfillment in being involved in organizations that align with your personal interests.  

Check where you give — although most organizations are legitimate and reputable, it’s always a good idea to validate. Start by making sure it is a registered charity (designated as a 501(c) (3) organization). You can check the charity’s Form 990, which is publicly available and contains a wealth of information regarding mission, financials, and other important information. GuideStar.org is an excellent resource and provides a lot of information on over 2.7 million non-profits globally.

Be selective — as much as you may want to, you can’t give to every cause. Try to narrow down your list so that you can give in a way that will have a measurable effect on the organization or cause you support. And, remember its okay to say “no” to solicitations.

It’s not always all about money — volunteering is a great way to get to know an organization, see its impact first-hand, and feel the satisfaction of personal involvement. It’s also an effective way to involve multiple generations of your family in your giving efforts, and you may have a skill they really need. 

Be strategic — there are many options for monetary giving, including direct donations, foundations, endowments, donor-advised funds, and through sophisticated trust structures. The best method for you depends on things like your level of giving, the intended purpose of your gift, and the anticipated timing and length of your commitment. In addition, each type or structure of giving has different legal and tax implications that are important to understand before making a commitment. 

Sources:
1 Giving USA 2018
2016 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy conducted in partnership with the Indiana University Lilly School of Philanthropy
3 Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact 2017 Charitable Giving Report

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