Charity Donations Are Great, but Doing This Is Better

Engaging with nonprofits is the best way to assess their impacts and enrich your contributions.

Jun 15, 2014 at 2:17PM

Many people who give charitable donations to nonprofits are uncertain that their giving is effective -- that it makes a difference, that the nonprofits are high-performing, and that significant impacts are being achieved. You can do research on a nonprofit's website, and rating sites like Charity Navigator and Guide Star, which provide background information on nonprofits.

However, if you're passionate about a nonprofit's cause, you can offer it more than a monetary contribution -- and learn how your contributions are being used. Here is the best way to assess nonprofits, and multiply the impact of your giving: Engage.

All Hands

Source: Flickr user, Michael Cardus

  • Volunteer: Help to do the work of the organization, whether it is community service, joining a committee or board, or helping in its administrative office. You will meet staff people and other volunteers, see how they work, and better understand how it is supporting its beneficiaries.
  • Attend events: Most nonprofits put on events for fundraising, advocacy, or media purposes. You will meet other supporters, and get a sense of their constituent network, while providing some help. In the process, you might also make some good contacts for yourself, and even have some fun.
  • Participate in social media: Sign up for a nonprofit's electronic newsletter, Twitter feed, or blog RSS feed. You'll learn more about the organization and its efforts. And using these outlets, you can easily share with others, spreading its message and building its support community. Better yet, share your story publicly, about why you support this organization's mission. Nothing is as influential as a sincere, personal recommendation.
  • Help raise funds: This prospect can send chills through some people; others participate with gusto. Studies show that about 30% of donors actively fundraise for organizations they care about. Nonprofits provide help, and make it as easy as possible for you, so please consider it when they ask. You will benefit from knowing that you belong to a community of contributors, are helping it to grow, and the people you reach out to may be impressed by your generosity.

Nobody has time or money to waste, so skillful and sustainable giving takes some planning and research. A good first step is to identify a few focus areas of concern, and then do some field research into nonprofits working in those areas by making an initial donation, learning more about an organization on the Web, and finding an opportunity to engage in person.

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