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As the VP of Global Philanthropy at Children International, I lead our major fundraising campaigns, gift planning initiatives and partnerships with donors. We are a worldwide humanitarian organization helping children break the cycle of poverty. When people reach out to sponsor youth in our programs, help fund an educational scholarship or contribute to building our “safe space” community centers, there’s a magical connection that takes place … no matter the size of the gift. A light goes on and they are forever impacted.
Spending much of my career as a leader in the nonprofit world, I’m often asked about where to give, how to give, or tips of the trade, so to speak. With Giving Tuesday (a global day of giving back) quickly approaching on December 3, I’m sharing suggestions for individuals and businesses wanting to seek out and optimize philanthropic opportunities and the experience that goes along with them.
We don’t have to be wealthy to be philanthropists. In fact, the greater the sacrifice in giving, the deeper effect it’s likely to have in our lives. True generosity occurs without expectation or a spotlight. Philanthropy can include your time, talent or treasure. The most meaningful experiences include all three. Before donating or volunteering, consider these steps:
Do you like helping kids, the elderly or animals? Do you wish to see progress on a particular social issue, such as education, poverty or global warming? What are you good at and enjoy? Could you offer an extension of your talents, such as rehabbing houses? Whatever sparks that light or joy within you, grab hold of it and move that direction.
First, make sure the charity you’re considering has a 501(c)3 status. This means it has been approved by the IRS as a tax-exempt charitable organization and is more credible. Look at the charity’s mission or vision to see if it’s in line with your beliefs and goals. Check for seals of accreditation. Review the organization’s annual report to understand how they manage money. Lastly, learn how the charity measures success. (Or do they even measure data at all? This can be telling.)
Before you write a check or reach for your credit card, take time to learn about your charitable options. For instance, if you are among the millions of Americans with an IRA and are 70 ½ or older, you know this time of year means having to take a taxable required minimum distribution in order to avoid penalties. Using your IRA to make gifts to your favorite charities not only helps the causes you believe in, but also saves you from paying taxes on your required distribution. This is just one of many giving options that can help you support charities in a way that is efficient and impactful.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), how companies improve society by giving back to their communities or particular causes, is becoming mainstream in business. It not only builds loyalty and camaraderie among employees, but also influences where consumers spend their money. With so many choices, people want to interface with organizations that “do good” in the world because it makes them feel good.
In today’s business environment, being socially responsible and transparent are critical. To start, it’s smart to study your customer base and consider your company’s core purpose. This way, your philanthropic endeavors intuitively align with business goals. This Forbes article does a great job explaining how to build a CSR strategy.
The holiday season is the perfect time to branch out and start spreading kindness and generosity.
There are also easy, less formal ways companies can give back. For example, participate in a community service project, organize a food or coat drive, or donate a portion of your sales to a nonprofit that makes sense with your business.
The bottom line is philanthropy has the power to be transformative, for businesses and individuals alike. The holiday season is the perfect time to branch out and start spreading kindness and generosity. When you take the leap, you may be surprised how much the experience positively impacts you.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes to consider by Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” May this year-end giving season be one that is truly transformational and brings joy into your lives and your organizations.
Learn more about John Clause.