5 Tips for Making Your Charitable Donations Count

dollarThere is a lot of talk about American consumerism. This article from the Huffington Post goes as far as labeling the country’s affinity for buying things, a crisis. Perhaps there is some merit to the conversation, especially as we head into Black Friday (historically the biggest day of the year for the retail industry); yet Americans aren’t only concerned with acquiring things, hoarding goods for themselves. As a country, America is also quite generous. The most philanthropic nation on earth (tied with Myanmar), giving more than $373 billion to charity in 2015–a record amount, according to data from Giving USA.

This year, however, I think it’s important to encourage attentiveness with regard to giving. Being philanthropic is more than writing a check to whomever or whatever, it should involve strategy and, to a greater extent, concern for whether or not your gift is making a difference. Here are five tips for ensuring that every dollar you give to charity counts.

  1. Narrow Your Scope
    There are 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the U.S. alone. It can seem impossible to choose which organization to help, but doing so is an important part of making your donation count. As a start, look within yourself for guidance; in other words, ask yourself which causes matter most to you? Perhaps you want to honor a family member who lost a battle with cancer, or you grew up without food, or have a soft spot for homeless youth. Whatever it is that gets you moving, find organizations that advocate for and serve the cause that aligns with your values.
  2. Donate for Impact
    Determining how much to give is another difficult task for some donors. There is no one size fits all amount. Instead, do your research and find out exactly how much is needed to: feed a child for a year, send someone to college, or help a military family avoid eviction. Many organizations have gotten more specific in recent years, making it easier to give in a way that will ensure a positive outcome for the beneficiaries.
  3. Pool Money Together
    If the amount you want to give to make an impact is not enough, consider getting help from friends. In our current era of online crowdfunding, this is not an uncommon practice. Bring people together to maximize the amount of your donation and thusly the amount of help for the cause about which your are passionate. If you want to take the extra step, consider starting a giving circle, which would become more like a grant or a foundation.
  4. Make it a Family Affair
    Speaking of working together, get your children involved. What does this have to with making your donation count? It’s an example of generosity and values that are good for children to develop, and it sets a precedent for giving that will likely to continue after your gone–a legacy, if you will.
  5. Avoid Scams
    Lastly, don’t be naive. Not every organization set up in the name of charity is actually doing the work. It doesn’t take much to set up a website or a few social media pages, and scam people out of money. Check the organization’s tax-exempt status, then assess their public financial records, which will show how donations are used. This will require a little more time on your part, but it’s better than throwing your money away.

These last few months of the year are considered giving season. Share this blog with others to creative a more effective donating process for everyone. If you have other examples of ways to make an impact that are not included in this list, contact me via Twitter; I’d love to include your tips in my next post.

John Partilla is the CEO of Screenvision, and he’s a veteran of the marketing industry with nearly three decades of experience in a variety of roles.  Please read “John Partilla Named Screenvision CEO,”  “John Partilla: Screenvision Names Exec CEO – Variety,” “Screenvision Taps John Partilla To Be CEO As It Seeks To Rebuild” and his  Screenvision profile to learn more. Also, check out his CrunchbaseTwitter, and LinkedIn.