Consider These Things Before Giving to an Organization

August 18, 2015 Mariah Long Story 

Financial support is what keeps the nonprofit sector alive. Since the generous support of individuals allows nonprofits to do the work they do, we wanted to offer some advice for those who are new to giving to these types of organizations. We interviewed Shannon Isaacs for her advice to those wanting to support a cause.  


Shannon Isaacs works as a Corporate Major Gifts Officer at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She currently serves on the boards of Friends General Conference and the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Shannon has a degree with honors in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. She has previously worked and volunteered in Burundi, India and Zimbabwe for international development organizations.

“Turning your money into social benefit is always a good thing to do.”

How to Determine Where to Give 

Find an organization that you can support as a whole. Research any organization you are thinking of supporting on Charity Navigator to see how they rate, where they spend their money and the success of their programs. You can also look at their annual reports, 990s, or audited financial statements. An important thing to look for is clear organizational outputs. What is the actual change this organization is making in the world? This is something you should be able to find in an organization’s annual report or website. Support an organization that has a vision and effectively puts their resources around achieving that vision.  

Also look for organizations that are uplifting people, not ones that patronize people. Be sure they respect the people being served, and that is about empowering the people being served rather than having the savior mentality. An organization needs to be embedded in the community that it is serving in order to insure that they understand the culture and the needs of those they are serving.

If you are giving unrestricted dollars it is important that you support the organization in its entirety rather than just one program since most gifts come in as unrestricted dollars that an organization can spend wherever it needs to.
Finally, give to something that is important to you, that brings you joy and meaning. Give somewhere that makes your heart sing. When you give you become part of something bigger than yourself, you are helping to make the world a better place and joining with others working on the, this is supposed to be joyful and meaningful. 

Check out our directory of anti-slavery organizations to help you find somewhere to support.

Increase Your Impact

There is never a bad time to give; every dollar counts. Whatever works best for your situation is what you should do, whether that is monthly, annually or just whenever you can. One way to make sure that your dollars can have the largest impact is by participating in matching campaigns.

A matching campaign is where a donor will match any gifts up to a certain amount. By giving to a match campaign you can guarantee that your dollar will be worth more to the organization. These campaigns can look different. When you give to a matching campaign, the organization really will not get the extra match dollar if they do not raise the matching funds (the funds you give), so the increased impact of your contribution is real.

For example, a matching donor will match $2 for every $1 raised. So if an organization raised $1,000 in individual contributions the matching donor would match $2,000 making the total raised $3,000.

Give Your Time

Some people might not have expendable income they can donate financially to an organization. Giving your time is also an incredible gift to an organization. Look for places where an organization's capacity is truly increased by volunteer work. For example, if an organization wants to have an outing for those they are serving but doesn’t have enough volunteers to attend they cannot have that event. Sometimes just being around for a couple hours to help organize an office can be a huge help! Ask the organization you are looking to support if they have volunteer opportunities and how you could best serve them.

Give In-Kind 

Another option is to give an in-kind donation. This means that you give something you already have that has a monetary value. Depending on the resources you have available and the type of organization you are wanting to support this can look different. If you are wanting to support a shelter, they might have a need for clothes or hygiene supplies. You can also volunteer in areas you have expertise in. For example, if you are a lawyer, you can offer pro-bono services to an organization or individuals they support. There are many ways this could play out. Start by looking at what you have offer – whether that is a product or a service - and then ask what the organization needs to see if anything matches up!

Give by Spending 

Along with giving directly you can sign up for programs that will give when you spend. For example, Amazon Smile will donate .5% of your total purchase to the organization of your choice. Some grocery stores, such as Kroger, have community rewards where they will donate a percentage of your purchase as well. Ask your local grocery store if they have a similar plan, and sign up!

“There is no wrong way to give, except for not at all.”

Your giving truly makes a difference in the world. By global standards Americans are extremely wealthy. Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. You are able to give an amount of money that is equivalent to what it costs half the people in the world to live for a day. Also, remember that no gift you give is too small, in the words of Lynn Twist, an expert on philanthropic giving “I have seen…the immense healing power of even the smallest amount of money when we use it to express our humanity.” It is through the generosity, care and hard work of people like you, who want to make a difference, that the story of our world, and the experience of humanity is transformed.

Nonprofit organizations need your support to continue their work! So find an organization that you love, and make a plan to support them in whatever way you can.  

Get Creative

with your giving

Topics: Awareness

About the Author

Mariah Long

Mariah was previously the Program Manager of End Slavery Now. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati's DAAP program with a degree in Digital Design.