Guide to Better Giving

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."
Winston Churchill
Don't just give, give with impact!

Wondering what to think about as you plan your own charitable giving? What are some guidelines and best practices?

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Wondering where to begin? Think about what you care about most.
Our motto is: Pick a cause with your heart and then an organization with your mind.

Giving should be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. With your kind and selfless action, you’re able to change the life of a child, improve the environment, or help someone less fortunate have a second chance. Therefore, it’s important for you to follow your heart and pick a cause or issue that you care deeply about (for personal, intellectual, ideological reasons or otherwise) when deciding where to give. And then, you should support the nonprofits within that field that are having the biggest impact, doing the most good.

Ask for evidence of impact when deciding whether to fund a nonprofit.
Why is impact so important?

We believe that nonprofits should be rewarded based on the work they do. It’s simple really: the more good work, the more money they should get to keep doing that good work. While it is important that nonprofits are financially responsible and efficient, that does not necessarily mean they are doing great work. Rather, we believe the impact the organization is having is the most important measure of whether one should support that group. Only after you have established that the nonprofit is having impact should you begin to assess the organization based on other measures like efficiency.

Make an unrestricted donation to the organization.
Why is it better to give unrestricted funds to a nonprofit rather than fund a project?  

Like any other organization, nonprofits need to have office space, make photocopies, and pay people in order to perform their job. While it’s not bad to fund a particular project you really believe in, nonprofits can’t exist in the long run if everyone only funds projects. After all, who will run those projects? An analogy might be: would you buy the parts of a car, but not pay for safety and crash testing? Of course not! The best thing you can do is find financially responsible nonprofits that are making the biggest impact in their field and support their organization as a whole through unrestricted funding. This will ensure your generous contribution goes the farthest.

Support a diversity of kinds of nonprofits.

Unfortunately, there is no one solution to any sector or field’s problems. Therefore, we believe it’s a wise strategy to support a variety of the best nonprofits each tackling the problem from different angles. For example, to support climate change that you care so much about, you might pick a research organization, policy organization, and advocacy group to fund. That way, you’re acting like many foundations do in funding many possible solutions and levers for change.

Consider committing 1% of your income to charitable giving.  

While everyone’s situation is unique, consider this simple formula for deciding your annual contribution. Your income may rise and (hopefully not) fall, so no need to stick to a fixed annual amount. What about donating 1% of your annual income to the causes you care about and the organizations that are doing the best work in those areas? You can set up a monthly recurring payment to provide consistent support that is always within your budget. Only 1%--it’s not that much, but it can make a big difference.

Philanthropedia is a division of GuideStar, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Through independent research, Philanthropedia has leveraged the wisdom of 3128 experts to provide reviews on 783 top nonprofits across 48 causes.