In the nonprofit world, it is often said that there are three different ways you can support organizations: with your time, your talent or your treasure. Put in layman’s terms, you can volunteer your time, you can contribute your knowledge and skills (this is generally a reference to participating at the Board level), and you can donate money.
But regardless of how you support a nonprofit, you have to choose which ones to support. There are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the US alone, so choosing those that reflect your values and do work that interests you can be challenging.
Answering the question “which one is right for you?” is a very personal one.
When clients ask us this question, one of the first things we do is find out what they personally care about. The clearer you are about issues that are important to you, the better you will be able to identify organizations doing work in these issues. And the more personally invested you will be your giving.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when thinking about which organizations to support:
- What issues and causes do I care about? This is a good starting point. Do you love animals? Are you deeply connected to your church, synagogue, or mosque? Or are you concerned about human rights, mental health or the environment? Think about issues that catch your eye as you read a newspaper or magazine
- Do I like community-based or issues-based organizations? Do you gravitate to local issues that you may observe or be impacted by in your community (homelessness, job creation, access to education or healthy food), or are the causes that interest you specific to more global issues such as human rights or climate change?
- How do I want to support the organization? Cash donations or gifts of appreciated securities are often the first thing we think about. Financial support is the fuel that sustains nonprofits. But if you have a specific skill or available time to volunteer, that is also a valuable way to support organizations you care about.
- How do I find organizations that meet my values? This requires some research. The internet can be a terrific resource for information. Write a list of some of your core values. Identify a half dozen organizations that interest you, and use the list of your core values as you review information on each organization. Look at their websites. Start with their mission. Look for other clues that give you information about how the organization compares with your core values.
Thinking through these questions will help you become clear about how to select organizations to support and determine how you want to support them. The better aligned your personal interests are with your giving, the more meaningful the experience will be.