Giving Tuesday is a good idea. It was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation with the goal of creating an international movement of charitable giving to counterbalance the consumerism of the holiday season. Millions of inboxes are being pinged today by non-profits and commercial brands, vying for your attention and your financial gifts. Before you decide to give any money, of any amount, it’s important to understand the “industry” of non-profit world so that you can give wisely.
Because Giving Tuesday is an idea, and not a centralized organization, we can only get estimates of the total money donated on this day. In 2016, the total money moved through the major online donation processors on Giving Tuesday was estimated by the Case Foundation to be $117 million. To put that in context, individuals gave over $258 billion in 2014 or about 72% of the $358 billion in total contributions which include gifts from foundations and corporations (Giving USA). So, money donated on Giving Tuesday, represents about 3 cents of every $100 donated. Even though it’s a small piece of the total pie, Giving Tuesday is an important idea that counteracts the mindet of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
My advice to anyone considering a donation is to think of it as an investment. So how can you give, or invest wisely? Here are some tips:
Invest strategically – Donate to a cause that you truly care about because of a personal connection or set of strongly held beliefs that you want to live out. Because so many people have a friend or family member who has had cancer, many people give to charities like Susan G. Komen or the American Cancer Society. However, there are thousands of non-profits who have a cancer-related mission. The key is for you to identify an organization that’s mission focuses on an aspect of cancer you care about. Then, narrow it down further by finding those that provide evidence of continuing and growing impact.
Invest efficiently – After you make a short list of candidates, examine their financial reports to make sure they are meeting best practice guidelines. One example of a best practice is ensuring that 80% or more of expenditures by the non-profit are directed to program and only 20% or less to administration and fundraising. Non-profits must file a financial report via a Form 990 every year. A well-managed non-profit will publish these reports online for their donors to see. The best non-profits pride themselves on directing at least 85% of their revenues to program impact.
Follow your investment – If you buy mutual funds, you follow their performance. Make sure you follow the performance of the organizations you commit to. Things change. Leadership changes. Even missions change.
So, Giving Tuesday is a good idea. But the impact of the millions donated will be greater if people give or invest wisely. You will also find many opportunities on Giving Tuesday to double your investment due to matching grants which are prevalent on this day.
Here are some resources that may help you make wise investment decisions:
With over 9,029 charities rated, Charity Navigator provides objective ratings so you can find charities that are trustworthy and deserving of your support.
GuideStar is the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations and provides you with the information you need to make smart decisions, build connections and achieve your mission.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance helps donors make informed giving decisions and promotes high standards of conduct among organizations that solicit contributions from the public.
November 28, 2017
Written by Tom Sullivan
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