There can be a number of reasons why a person might want to select a charity of choice above all others. Maybe it’s prompted by a conversation with the family, a preparation of a Will, or a desire to make a specific impact in the local community. If you are like me, all three reasons apply.
The benefits of taking a planned approach to charitable giving is that it encourages a review of one or more social causes based on your interests, while prudently structuring your personal budget. For the charity, it can represent the forming of a longstanding partnership where donors and charities are making a shared, sustainable commitment to solve a social problem.
Below is my list of considerations when choosing to donate to charities included in my annual and legacy plans. I hope you will find it helpful.
- Aligning social causes with my personal values. Having set criteria for narrowing my choice(s) helps in the final decision. Children, education and health are important to me. What’s important to you?
- Talking to allied professionals (i.e. lawyers, investment advisors) along with fundraising specialists, especially when crafting a Will and Estate Plan has given me added clarity. With so many options for leaving a gift of legacy, it’s best to have thoughtful advice to ensure the financial gift is directed in line with your wishes after you are gone.
- I like to look back on my own life experiences and weigh my criteria against those causes that have resonated with me. Were organizations along the way helpful to me or important to people I know? Do gaps in programs or services exist now that I hoped would have been fulfilled over my lifetime?
- What charities stand out as having healthy reputations and are well-known for their transparency and integrity? By exploring websites and speaking to friends I can narrow the possible choices.
- The charity’s financial health and sustainability are important criteria so I can feel confident my donation will be well-managed and make a difference to those who need it. Looking at financial audited statements and having conversations with people in the organizations have helped me understand the needs and challenges the charity is tackling.
- Having confidence in the organization’s management and governance leadership is my gut check on the quality of the charity. Has the leadership been consistent? Are the leaders truly passionate about the cause? Can they demonstrate the progress the charity is making? Are they good stewards?
- Knowing a charity remains relevant is essential to me. I like to learn how the charity innovates, e.g. client programs, awareness campaigns and fundraising initiatives. Having this information has led me to start or stop donating to some charities over the years.
- My final consideration is a ’90/10 Rule’. I make planned annual contributions using 90% of the budget, while I set aside 10% for unforeseen requests (e.g. natural disaster, memorial gift).
Apart from managing your financial priorities, adopting a process of selecting charities of choice can provide you with the opportunity to explore new social causes, and engage family and friends in the conversation about making a charitable choice.
Keith D Publicover is a Charity Impact and NonProfit Management Consultant with a breath of nonprofit executive management and fund development experience.