13 Questions That Will Help You Become A More Impactful Donor

Learn how to be just as intentional about your philanthropic choices as you are about your other spending with impact consultant Elisabeth Williams.


 

You work hard for your money, and you don’t like to waste it. You’re careful about what you spend and how you invest. But are you also careful about where you donate your hard-earned dollars?

Most people aren’t. Most take a somewhat haphazard approach to giving. They simply write checks to organizations that have a good mission or charismatic leader, places that friends and family members support, causes that they read about or see advertised on TV that tug at their heart strings, or the latest disaster or crisis in the news.

That’s not a bad thing. It’s just not the best approach. Not if you really want to make an impact.

Be intentional about where you donate

 
It’s not difficult to be just as intentional about your philanthropic choices as you are about your other spending choices. Begin by establishing an “annual review” process for your philanthropy. This way you can strategically plan your giving once a year and make small tweaks as necessary.

I advise adopting an investor mindset to philanthropy and creating your own “Portfolio of Giving.” Your portfolio should list the causes you are passionate about, as well as the most effective organizations you can find devoted to those causes.

When deciding where to donate ask yourself if your approach is one of charity or philanthropy. Charity is typically an emotional response to a need. Whereas, philanthropy takes a strategic approach to problem solving with the goal of eliminating the causes that necessitate the need for charity.

As long as donors continue to give based on emotion alone, there is little incentive for the nonprofit community to focus on effectiveness and problem solving. But that’s beginning to change as funders are becoming educated and informed.

Guiding questions for greater impact

 
Your impact can be even greater when you not only address needs but also effect change and encourage greater accountability from the nonprofit community. That’s what I want for you.

This more intentional approach to philanthropy has many names: strategic, effective, result-oriented, outcome-oriented.

Simply put, being a strategic donor means you ask some important questions before you make a donation.

Here are 13 questions that I ask my clients to answer:

    1. What values are important to me?
     
    2. What cause(s) do I want to focus on?
     
    3. What are the root causes of the problem I hope to address?
     
    4. What is the scope of the problem?
     
    5. Is it most effective to address the issue at the local, national, or international level, or a combination?
     
    6. Is the cause already being addressed and possibly over-funded?
     
    7. Where can I do the most good?
     
    8. What do I want to achieve through my donation?
     
    9. What evidence-based strategies exist for achieving this goal?
     
    10. Which organizations are implementing these strategies effectively?
     
    11. Is there a group of organizations addressing different aspects of the issue that I can support?
     
    12. What are the chances for success, and how is it measured?
     
    13. What is my risk tolerance?

This does not mean that you have to become an expert. There are many intelligent, hard-working, energetic, dedicated, compassionate individuals working diligently to solve our most pressing social issues. You just have to find those with expertise and experience and support their work.

Why trust is key

 
The truth is, you won’t always get it right when choosing, but the times that you do will multiply the impact of your giving. It’s about the difference you want to make in the world and who you believe has that same conviction and can carry it out effectively.

So, do your research, and if you can, get out into the field to meet the team and see them at work. Then make your decision. Whether it’s gaining more knowledge about the issue or getting first-hand experience, you’re becoming a more intentional, impactful giver.

I advise providing unrestricted (not program specific) funding for one year initially.

Make your donation and get out of the way.

Let the experts do their work and offer advice and support only if asked. Don’t expect them to adjust their strategy or programming based on what you think will work better. If you don’t trust them, you shouldn’t fund them. It’s that simple.

Monitor their progress using the measurements that they use. If after the first year you continue to be impressed with the organization, by all means provide additional, longer-term funding and develop a mutually beneficial partnership with them.

Ready to get strategic? Use GlobalGiving’s giving calculator to set your intentional, monthly giving goal.

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Featured Photo: Empower Girls in Rural India to Be Champions by Mann Deshi Foundation

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