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Tips to Help You Practice Meaningful and Strategic Philanthropy

| March 06, 2024

Many people find that being philanthropic with their money brings them joy. After all, being charitable can be a meaningful experience and is a way to put your core values into practice. Recent data confirms this, as The Philanthropy Roundtable has shown that 60% of Americans donated to charity last year.1 If being philanthropic fits with your personal and financial values, here are six strategies to help you maximize your charitable giving impact.

Identify the Causes You Care About

With finite resources, it’s important to be intentional about where to donate your money. Making a list of non-profit organizations that you have given to in the past, and perhaps adding some new organizations whose work you care about, is a good start. Looking over your list, consider what your current priorities in life are, and choose those that are in alignment with your values. This exercise can help you to ensure that your charitable dollars are supporting not just the causes that are appealing to you for help, but the causes that are currently important to you.

Consider Streamlining Your Giving

Speaking of those charitable appeals, it’s likely that you receive a multitude of donation requests from worthy nonprofits throughout the year. However, philanthropy isn’t like investing, where diversification is a recommended strategy. To maximize the impact of your philanthropy, you may consider streamlining your donations to charities that are akin and most closely align with your core values. For example, if animal welfare is important to you, you may want to focus your giving on shelters or animal and wildlife protection organizations. In this way, your giving achieves a greater impact across the spectrum of the cause you care most about.

Involve Your Family

Philanthropy is about more than money. It can also involve sharing your values with future generations and teaching them about meaningful ways that they can make a difference in the lives of others. Gathering your family together to actively participate in charitable giving decisions can also create a new shared tradition. While together, you’re helping to instill the spirit of giving, while offering each family member the opportunity to share with everyone the causes that are most important to them. There are a variety of ways to maximize your family’s charitable giving, including pooling money together toward a selected cause, establishing a fund that allows family members to choose how to direct their donations, or annually rotating the selection of charitable causes. When you instill the habit of giving, you are also building a values-based tradition that will positively impact both your family members and the lives of others.

Research the Charities Carefully

Take the time to determine the best charities that will accomplish your family’s charitable goals. Knowing the mission of each organization is the best place to start. Be sure the mission and values of your chosen nonprofits align with your giving intentions. Also ensure that the finances and management of the organization are sound. Look into what percentage of charitable donations directly support the cause or programs, as opposed to administration and overhead. There are reputable tools to help you gain this knowledge such as Charity Navigator, GuideStar, Charity Watch, and Charities Review Council.

Maximize Your Gift

Having determined where you want to focus your philanthropy, there are some steps you can take to maximize your giving:

  • Give directly to avoid the middleman. Some nonprofits utilize the services of professional fundraisers, paying them anywhere from 40 to 80 percent of the proceeds received. Often these solicitations are via phone, so avoid this and give directly to the charitable organization.
  • Avoid using credit cards. Nonprofits usually have to pay a credit card fee of 3 to 5 percent, which reduces the amount of your donation and thus the level of your charitable giving impact.
  • Look into employer matching gift programs. Many employers offer the opportunity to match your gift, thus increasing your charitable contribution and your impact.
  • Gifting appreciated assets that you have held for more than one year as a direct gift can provide you with tax benefits while helping the charity of your choice. You may also consider establishing a donor-advised fund (DAF) which can also provide you with tax savings.

Note: A donor-advised fund (DAF) is a charitable investment account that you establish at a public charitable foundation that can help support nonprofit organizations you care about. They provide a flexible way to donate with either cash or securities, and they can provide many tax advantages. A DAF can prove to be a strategically beneficial tool to consider in your philanthropic efforts, though it won’t be right for every family.

Giving Beyond Money

Donating money isn’t the only way to practice philanthropy. Time and talent can be just as valuable to a charitable organization, and many organizations need the skills of volunteers. Whether you’re giving at the financial level that you would like to or not, volunteering can help you feel more connected to the causes you care about.

Concluding Thoughts on Maximizing Your Charitable Gifting Impact

Practicing philanthropy through the giving of your time, talent, or money to make an impact on the charities and causes you care about can be very meaningful for both you and the organizations of your choice. Often, it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference. Be comfortable with the level of your giving and consider some of the strategies offered here to maximize your impact and instill the value of philanthropy in your family, as well.


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