Making a Donation? Here are Five Things to Consider
By Hannah Johnson, Community Engagement, Northern Arizona Healthcare Foundation
It’s a well-known fact that charitable or philanthropic giving provides opportunities for tax benefits. While this is certainly a nice bonus, it doesn’t always lessen challenges associated with donating.
Managing a tight income, negotiating decisions for long-term investments or even justifying purchases for immediate pleasures can be hard enough without factoring in another line item for contributions. Moreover, the sheer number of organizations with compelling reasons to give can sometimes get a bit overwhelming. All factors combined, confidently hitting the “donate” button or signing a check can prove to be a tricky task.
If you can relate to this, know you’re not alone. Here are a few simple guidelines I’ve found helpful. I hope they can support you as you as you consider your future giving plans.
1. Make it personal
Take a minute to think about what really matters to you. Have you been personally affected by a challenging health issue, do you love pets, are you passionate about supporting youth? While you might not be able to dedicate your life towards solving some of these challenges, you can invest in the work of organizations that are. Keep the causes close to your heart and feel empowered to donate from that space. And here’s another important nugget, do not feel guilty if you come across causes that don’t resonate.
2. Establish your impact scope: short-term, long-term, or both?
Former president of the Council on Foundations, Steve Gunderson, helps make the distinction between short term and long term impact through his definitions of charity and philanthropy, “Charity tends to be a short-term, emotional, immediate response, focused primarily on rescue and relief, whereas philanthropy is much more long-term, more strategic, focused on rebuilding. There is charity, which is good, and then there is problem-solving charity, which is called philanthropy.” Your decision here will help you focus on the organizations that are delivering the level of impact you are interested in supporting.
3. Think local
As the old proverbs go, “Charity begins at home,” and it’s usually a good place to start. Supporting a local organization has the potential to impact your own backyard and can have positive economic implications. If you are interested in these benefits, take some time to explore opportunities on the home front. You might just discover new and meaningful organizations within your local community that you never knew existed.
4. Do your due diligence
Assess the degree to which an organization is accountable, transparent, and creating real impact:
● Confirm tax status - Ensure that the organization has been granted a 501(c)(3) by the Internal Revenue Service. Why is this important? This assures that: your contribution is tax-deductible, the organization’s financial information is public, and that it is governed by certain rules for spending.
● Inquire about administrative fees - There are a few things to consider here 1) Be weary of this claim, “100% of your donation will support x, y, z cause.” While this statement is usually made with the best intentions, the truth is, there are costs associated with acquiring and processing donations. 2) Try not to be overly skeptical when you do see this fee. This percentage helps support an organization in reaching its mission and goals, just make sure you feel comfortable with the amount.
● Look for accomplishments - Check assessments, peek at the annual reports, or take a few minutes to chat with a staff member. Concrete examples of successes can help build your overall confidence in the efforts of the organization.
5. Explore other options to engage
Giving a donation is important, but by no means the only way to support your chosen cause. The gift of time, ideas, or feedback are equally valuable. A great way to connect with an organization is to check it out for yourself. Call the office and speak with someone to learn about the mission, visit the website and check for local events that welcome participation, or stop in for a face-to-face meeting. Getting connected will allow you to better determine if and how the organization aligns with your overall values and giving goals.