November 15 is National Philanthropy Day. It’s a day set aside to recognize and pay tribute to the great contributions that philanthropists have made in our lives, our communities, and the world.
Etymologically, philanthropy is the love of humanity. In a modern context, it is an individual’s private support of what they consider to be the public good and the improvement of people’s quality of life.
A lot of people think of names like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates when they think of philanthropy, but it’s important to understand that a smart gift is just as effective in supporting the public good as a large gift is. If you’re looking to support your favorite cause through a donation, here are some tips for making sure your donation can have the greatest impact:
- Include philanthropic giving in your budget. You don’t have to give away thousands of dollars for your gift to have an impact. You can do a lot of good with a smaller gift every month, or a gift once a year. Set up a budget for giving and time frame to make a donation.
- Know what cause is closest to your heart. Your gifts can be most effective if you set a plan for giving to the cause that is most important to you. Having a set plan for giving makes it less likely that you’ll respond to pressure to give from every nonprofit that asks.
- Do your homework. Just a little bit of research lets you know how your gift will be used. You can find out what percentage of your gift will go directly to a cause, and what percent will be used for administrative costs through the CharityWatch rating guide, or review the nonprofit on Guidestar or the Better Business Bureau.
- Include your whole family in giving. Just like it’s never too early to get kids involved in volunteering, it’s never too early to teach kids how to support causes they think are important. Learning to Give has some great tips for teaching the importance of philanthropic giving to different age groups.
- Be proactive in your giving. Don’t wait to be asked to make a donation. Take control of your philanthropy by researching causes, finding stable and effective charities, and by investing in making the world better now and for future generations.
- Giving a gift is important, but knowing when to say ‘no’ is important, too. For your own sake, and for the sake of a nonprofit that might be asking you for a donation, it’s better to say ‘no’ than to say ‘maybe.’ Don’t feel bad about saying ‘no.’ You can only support a few (or maybe just one) causes. If you don’t say no, the nonprofit may continue to ask you and you’ll feel bothered, and they’ll spend time asking you instead of other potential donors.