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Five Ways to Be Smart About Resolving to Donate More in 2011

January 4, 2011

After the “World Giving Index 2010” report was issued last September showing the United States ties for fifth place with Switzerland in terms of charitable donations, more Americans may be planning to resolve to give more in the New Year.

As the time for New Year’s resolutions quickly approaches, the Charities Aid Foundation America (CAFAmerica) offers the following solutions for active philanthropists already engaged in giving to charities overseas, and to other Americans who are interested in test-driving a charity and becoming first-time donors:

CAFAmerica CEO Susan Saxon-Harrold said:

The impulse that many who know of the World Giving Index 2010 ranking for the United States will feel is to want to find some way to give more.   If donating more is going to be one of your New Year’s resolutions, our message is that you need to do your homework, use the tools provided by CAFAmerica and other organizations, and think about how to give in a way that will achieve a maximum impact, rather than scattering your contributions thinly on several fronts.

CAFAmerica outlined the following tips for those who plan in 2011 to either start giving or to step up their donations:

  1. Focus on a charity that makes sense for you. Charities have an obligation to provide detailed information to interested donors. Never give to a charity you know nothing about.  You may wish to pick a charity or an initiative in one field of interest and in one geographic area and then stick to it. To get started finding a charity that is a good fit for you, go here.  This Web tool allows you to search approximately 1,000 charities by nation, region, focus (religion, education, social services, health and medical research, the environment) and other key factors.  Beyond the organizations documented in CAFAmerica’s online tool, donors may also select a target for giving from more than 100,000 charities around the world, and opt to make donations to the eligible organization of their choice.
  2. Consider giving more to fewer charities. If you do give to many non-profits, consider donating larger sums to fewer organizations.  In the world of small- and medium-size charities, a $1,000 donation to one charity may achieve a much bigger impact than $100 given to each of 10 different charities.  This is not to say that someone has to give more than $100 to make a difference, and there is no right or wrong answer about which charity you should give to and at what level.  However, it is generally true that, for those who can afford to do so, a few large gifts will generate a bigger impact than several small gifts.
  3. Do your homework and donate safely. There is no substitute for due diligence when it comes to international charitable giving.  Donors who give via CAFAmerica can be reassured that any foreign or U.S. charity that they want to support will be reviewed to make sure that funds are used for their intended purpose.  We get answers to these questions:  How long a charity has been working?  What risks are associated with giving to a specific country?  Can we independently verify a charity’s mission?  These are a few of the many questions we ask before we make an advised grant.  As a donor you should also ask questions before you give.  Ask about the charity in which you are interested and find out more about it.  Talk to friends, family and neighbors, and use the internet to learn more about a charity or issue that interests you.  Ask the charity about its achievements, what has failed, and how it is financed.  Many charities provide some of this information online or you can email them.  If they are being transparent they will tell you.  Then you will be able to find out whether the charity is likely to use your gift wisely.  If you’re interested in a major donation to a charity or for an initiative in a country then there is no substitute for seeing their work in action.  So consider making a visit or a country tour to find out what you really would like to support.
  4. Focus on sustainability – not “one shot” giving. If you are considering a larger donation, it’s important to think about what happens after your money is spent by a foreign charity. Do the services offered decline?  Do programs get dismantled?  This is why “sustainability” is increasingly an important issue for donors who don’t want to see their gift go to waste.  Think about the long term by asking the charity how they spent your gift and what was achieved by it.
  5. Review your giving regularly. Look back over the past year and ask the tough questions:  Did you fulfill your goals for cross-border giving?  Do you need to make changes?  Do you need more help in establishing your goals?  If so, what worked and what will you change for next year?  It’s important to avoid the “check off the box” syndrome of international charitable giving, where you simply go back each holiday season to the same charities and write them the same check as the previous year.

For more details about the World Giving Index 2010 findings, go here.

ABOUT CAFAMERICA

Charities Aid Foundation America (CAFAmerica) was founded in 1992, and is a member organization of the United Kingdom-based Charities Aid Foundation international network of offices, which provides charitable financial services to individuals, global corporations, charities, and foundations.  CAFAmerica is dedicated to expanding borderless charitable giving by providing guidance and international grant making solutions for donors and charities. Together with its UK subsidiary for dual US/UK taxpayers, the CAF American Donor Fund, CAFAmerica makes over $40 million in grants to charities in 76 countries around the world.  CAFAmerica’s range of charitable solutions include: Donor Advised Gifts, Donor Advised Funds, Matching Donor Advised Funds, Designated Funds, bequest planning and ‘Friends of’ Charity Funds.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2011 9:10 pm

    Sharmila, thanks for your great post. I wonder about recommendation number #2. My husband (Sendhil) and I went back and forth about this issue a lot. We finally agreed that while larger donations usually have a larger impact, there is something to be said about smaller donations that engage us in the organization and provide incentives for us to introduce the organization to our broader networks. What do you think about this side benefit of smaller donations?

  2. January 5, 2011 5:03 pm

    I agree! I think about this a lot both for our personal giving and regarding the impact of small grants given by foundations, often smaller foundations. Certainly, giving what you can to causes that matter to you is key. And I do believe that smaller donations can not only engage and create a connection, but also have the ability to indeed impact that organization. For example, to an organization with a smaller budget or directing your donation to a specific initiative or project within the organization, that donation could be quite impactful. As we’ve seen, there’s also a trend for nonprofits to increase their individual donor base. For some orgs, it may be more difficult to get ten $1k donations but one hundred $100 donations might be doable… Definitely food for thought.

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