|Where to Make the Best Impact|
|People give to charity for many different reasons, but one thing they all share is the desire to benefit causes they care about and make a difference in the lives of others. Opportunities abound for generous people to give to charity. Large national and international organizations vie for donations, small local charities fundraise and, lately, direct appeals through sites like GoFundMe have been thrown into the mix. With so many people asking for money and so many opportunities for us to be generous, how do we determine where it is best to make a gift?
Any time we are deciding where we want to give, it is important that we choose a charity that aligns with our personal values. What do you care about the most? Where do you think your money will have the greatest impact? Everyone is going to have different ideas, concerns, and interests but a little research will go a long way towards helping you find a charity that does work that is consistent with the things you care about most dearly.
If you know of a charity that might do work in the areas you care about, check out their website and learn a little more about what they do. Look at their mission and vision statements and read some testimonials from donors and those who have benefitted from their work. If it still sounds like something of interest to you, give the charity a call and ask them to tell you more about their work. Depending on the organization, you might want to pay them a visit and see what they do firsthand. Whatever your choice, you are more likely to feel good and give more generously to an organization you understand and believe in.
Even after you are satisfied that a charity does good work and aligns with your values, there are other things to consider. Big, small, local, or international, there are thousands of quality charities operating in Canada but they each have different strengths. When deciding what impact your donation will have, it is important to understand not only which charities are working in a particular space, but how they are working in that space.
Small charities can be nimble, meeting a variety of local needs quickly while remaining personally connected to the communities they serve. Large organizations, because of their size and widespread brand recognition, can often utilize economies of scale while engaging governments and the private sector to address large scale problems. For example, your local shelters may be best-positioned to make a meaningful impact on homelessness in your city, whereas a large multi-national charity might be best at responding to an acute natural disaster or reaching people in need overseas.
Consider a $10,000 gift given to two different charities. First, imagine that money is given to a large charity, such as a hospital foundation. Your gift will be appreciated and will support better patient care, but your gift might have little visible impact on individuals in the short term. The very nature of a hospital foundation is to provide support for a hospital over the long term. Now, consider if that same donation were given to a local food bank where it will presumably be used to buy food for people in need. The donation has an immediate and tangible effect for local people who are hungry, but unlike our hospital foundation example, the funds are likely to be exhausted very quickly. While these two scenarios are quite different, it is important to keep in mind that both have their place. One is not better than the other. Donations to both charities have a significant impact, but the timing and immediacy of the impact varies. The charity you choose to support depends entirely on the impact you want to make and the things you are most passionate about.
One of the most effective ways to get a clear picture of the impact donations to a particular charity might have is to give more than just our money. Learn by doing. Many charities have a variety of volunteer opportunities. Spending some time working directly with the organization you are interested in supporting will give you a front row seat to observe the work of the charity and the impact it makes. A couple years ago, my friend began volunteering with a breakfast program in his community. Since then, he has done much more than fry eggs and bacon and make toast. He has listened to personal stories of pain and hardship from people in his hometown, which has only strengthened his resolve to reduce poverty and homelessness. His giving has increased too.
The next time you’re deciding where you want to give, I encourage you to strategically weigh the potential impact of your donation. There are many factors to consider about the kind of impact you want to make. It takes a bit of research and a bit of soul searching, but if you make the effort, your generosity will make an impact and keep with what is important to you.