It’s not a secret that the holiday season can feel like the most hectic time of year, with no shortage of activities vying for our time, attention, and energy. For philanthropy, these last two months represent the busiest months of the calendar too.
According to the Center on Philanthropy the average individual makes 24% of their annual donations between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day; other estimates put that number as high as 34 percent, with nearly half of those charitable gifts coming in December alone.
Many of us donate to the same causes year after year, but this fall what if you could do more? To make the most of your philanthropy this holiday season, there are several questions to consider that can help you ensure your gifts generate the greatest impact.
Prioritize and Personalize
Deciding which organizations you care about, or what causes you feel most passionate about is an essential first step. To start, think about a place you have volunteered or an organization that has impacted your life. Personal experiences can often drive philanthropic intent. What organizations might align with your interests? Are you interested in nonprofits addressing the root causes of an issue, like eradicating hunger, or would you rather give to an organization tackling the crisis at hand, like a food pantry? Asking and answering these questions can help you narrow how, and where, you might want to give. Ultimately it comes down to what will mean the most to you.
Ensure Your Gift Matches a Need
Once you’ve chosen a cause, understanding the specific challenges within a community can help you find an organization that not only warrants your support but is addressing an identified need. For instance, if you want to give within education, there are a variety of different ways you could support the field—from helping an organization focused on early childhood education, to making a gift to a college scholarship program. TheLandscapeOmaha.org, is a tool that anyone can access to learn more about the Omaha-Council Bluffs region’s most pressing issues, while also connecting with the people and organizations working within these areas. We encourage you to use this—or other resources—as you consider our community’s greatest needs and the organizations working in those areas.
Do Your Homework
If you’ve identified a potential nonprofit, it’s time to conduct your own due diligence on the organization. Websites like GuideStar.org can offer up-to-date data on nonprofits to help inform your giving decisions. Another good start is to pay a visit to their website and do your own research. Some key questions to consider as you’re browsing: How does the nonprofit talk about their mission? How do they talk about their success? What do their financials look like? Consider whether these answers align with your own values and how you hope to impact in the community. It can also be helpful to read newsletters, annual reports, and marketing materials, to gain even more insight into organizational impact and effectiveness. Take your time to do the research, understand their programming, and how they address a community need. Or, if you have an account at the Omaha Community Foundation, ask us to do some digging on your behalf.
Follow Up and Give Again
Your gift can be the start of a strong, lasting relationship with a nonprofit. Keep in touch, or seek out a volunteer opportunity. A deeper funder-nonprofit relationship has the potential to create even greater lasting impact.
By keeping these steps in mind this giving season, your philanthropy can generate even more good for our community.