This help sheet is designed to help you become a more clear-eyed, more strategic, more effective donor by developing a giving plan. It will help you think through and articulate your personal giving philosophy, set some priorities, and design a plan that will ensure you can match your intentions with reality.
You can develop your plan as an individual, as a couple, as a family, as a group of friends, or in any other grouping you choose.
You can work through the process online, via the Giving Tool, or you can simply jot down your answers to the questions below. Take your time. You don’t need to decide anything right this minute. Try to be specific. You can’t help every good cause, so you’re going to have to make some choices.
STEP 1: Why do you want to give?
A good starting point is to ask yourself why you want to give (or give more) right now. What’s troubling you most about the world currently?
Ask yourself: If you could change three things in the world around you, what would they be? Write your priorities down. Add more if you have more. Try to be as specific as possible. Use these answers to frame your response to all the questions that follow.
Here are some examples:
- “Provide access to high-quality health care to all people.”
- “I want the arts sector to be thriving.”
- “Reduce carbon emissions.”
STEP 2: How much do you want to give?
Giving doesn’t have to involve money, though let’s be blunt: money is what many people and groups desperately need, so if you have some spare, please do consider contributing financially.
How much should you give? We can’t tell you that (it depends on your own income, priorities, commitments and outgoings), but there are some well established calculation methods:
- Tithing: Tithing dates from biblical times but is still practised. Traditionally, tithing involves giving away one-tenth of your income.
- Effective altruism: Australian philosopher Peter Singer, founder of the ‘effective altruism’ movement, has calculated that if everyone gave within their abilities, we could cure some of society’s worst ills while having a barely noticeable impact on most people’s current standards of living. He has created a tool that suggests how much you should give based on your income – use it here.
STEP 3: What else could you give?
If you don’t have money to spare, or if you want to give more than money, there are lots of other ways you can give. Check out this list. It includes information on how to give everything from blood to bikes to blankets to medical supplies to furniture – and even corks and hair!
Another way of providing financial and moral support is by signing up or renewing a membership. Financial memberships are much prized by many community groups because they give them an indication that they’re meeting a community need, while providing a regular and predictable source of funds.
Volunteering is another popular type of giving. You can find places to volunteer at Vollie, Seek or GoVolunteer, or you could double down on this form of giving by joining a board, committee or council – search for board opportunities at https://www.ourcommunity.com.au/icda/board/search/.
You can also use your personal or family budget to help create the world you want to see by making conscious and strategic purchasing decisions. For example, if you have “a plastic-free world” as one of your giving priorities, you might make a conscious decision not to purchase items packaged in plastic, and to seek our businesses that are working to eliminate plastic from their supply chain. If you value “a strong local economy” you could ensure you buy locally. If you want to contribute to “economic empowerment of immigrants and refugees” you might use a service like ASRC Catering for your next event. If you value “independent journalism” you might seek suitable subscriptions. It’s up to you whether you include purchasing decisions in your Giving Plan.
Some people prefer to provide direct support for individuals rather than organisational support. It can be tricky to find people who want and will accept this type of support but this may be something you want to include in your portfolio of giving. Your support could take the form of financial support, or it may be about dropping in on your neighbours to make sure they’re OK. Social media groups sometimes present opportunities to provide this sort of support.
If you’re keen to provide financial support for a community cause but don’t have much money to spare yourself, start a crowdfunder. Set yourself a challenge like quitting booze, getting fit or growing a beard and invite your friends to support you in your quest, while supporting a good cause at the same time. Get started here.
STEP 4: To whom do you want to give?
Take stock of your current donation habits. Review last year’s records (log into your My Giving Account if you have one), or jot down the people and groups you remember giving to last year.
Presumably these are groups that you already know and trust. Ask yourself:
- Are any of them doing the work you identified in step one? Do they need more help right now? Could you step up your contribution?
- What’s missing? Thinking about the needs you identified in step one, where else could you focus your giving?
Do some research to find which organisations are doing the sort of work you want to contribute to, making sure you include on your list the groups you’re already supporting that you want to support more right now.
Then start carving up your giving budget. You might opt to give to a variety of causes, creating a giving portfolio. You don’t need to give each group the same thing, or even an equal amount; you might choose to give all you can afford to one organisation, or spread it among a few; volunteer for this one, donate to that one.
Here are some hints if you’re having troubling finding groups to support.
Check out GiveNow
You can search for a cause that suits your interests, or for a group that’s seeking COVID-19 support in particular – see here.
Look close to home
Make a list of all the community organisations that make a difference to your life and to the lives of your family and friends: from support for childhood (including kindergartens, schools, universities, TAFEs, and other educational institutions) to support for your older friends and relatives, giving them a place to go or belong.
Call or email (and/or check their website) and ask them if they need support right now; and if so, what type of support.
Run an evaluation
Giving is often a matter of individual preference. Think through these questions to get some clarity on the type of giving that makes the most sense to you.
- Do you like to fund specific projects, or are you happy to give money to an organisation that’s doing good work and let them get on with it?
- Do you prefer to give to organisations run mainly by volunteers, or do you prefer organisations with professional staff?
- Do you prefer to give to small organisations (who often do a lot with a little) or large organisations (who may have economies of scale and may be in a position to have a bigger impact)?
- Do you prefer to support organisations that are just getting started or those that are already well established?
Community organisations operate in different ways and use their funds differently. Before you give, it's a good idea to be aware of how the organisation operates. Some questions that you may like to ask yourself about a group include:
- Do I agree with its programs and goals?
- Does it achieve worthwhile results?
- Do I like the way it is run?
- Do I like the way it reports its activities and accomplishments?
- Is it already financially healthy? Would it benefit from my donation?
- How does it compare to other organisations of similar size, age and mission?
- What criteria will I use to decide whether the money I contribute is well spent?
- How will my contribution be used?
- Will my donation be tax deductible? (Does it matter to you if it’s not?)
Don’t fall into the trap of equating low administrative overhead with effectiveness. Sure, make sure the groups you support aren’t wasting money, but we recommend you give to organisations that are effective, not just frugal.
STEP 5: When will you give?
Most societal and environmental problems take a long time to shift. Pace yourself. Many groups prefer small ongoing donations to large one-off donations because ongoing donations allow them to more accurately forecast their income (which allows them to plan better).
Consider setting up a monthly donation if you think your own situation is likely to be stable over the next 12 months or so.
As the situation changes, so too should your giving strategy. Consider setting aside some of your giving budget so you can respond to emerging needs.
Review your plan at least once every few months to make sure it still matches the needs that are emerging, and your capacity to contribute.
STEP 6: How will you give?
This is always a hard question to answer; even more so when the need is so great. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you find the right approach.
Personal or anonymous?
Do you want to help individuals or families that you know personally? Or would you like to help those most in need, even if they are strangers?
You may feel that your giving will have the most visible impact if you give close to home. You are more likely to see first-hand the need for and benefits of your gifts, and you will be better able to investigate or engage in the activities of a local organisation.
On the other hand, your donation may have a bigger impact in a community with less government support. Your definition of "community", whether it be geographical, social or economic, will also affect your decision.
Of course, you can choose to do a bit of both.
Local or global?
Are you more interested in supporting a local cause, or are you willing to widen your focus to a state, national, or international level?
If you want to stay local, how local is local? Is it enough for a beneficiary to be in your country? Or do you want to support people in your state? Your suburb? Your street?
Again, it doesn’t need to be either-or; you could do both.
Direct or through an intermediary?
Do you want to give directly (e.g. by supporting an individual seeking help via an online group), or would you prefer to give through an intermediary like a community group or charity, and let them decide how and whom to support?
There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. Giving personally allows you to tailor your giving and respond to immediate needs; giving to a community group or charity puts you at arm’s length, but they will most likely have more efficient systems for delivery of assistance than you might have personally, and are likely to know who’s most in need and what they can best do to help.
Immediate or long-haul aid?
You can choose to give for things that people need right now (food vouchers, clothing, furniture), or you might opt to contribute to causes designed to contribute to longer-term response and recovery efforts (funding research or public education campaigns, for example).
Again, you could, if you wanted, do a bit of both.
GiveNow: search for a cause
Some of these tips are derived from those originally proposed by world-renowned giving expert Tracy Gary.