Planning your giving
As the battle for the donor dollar becomes more competitive, community groups have to do more to convince people that they deserve support. At the same time, it is also important that individual donors review the way they give - and why - to ensure they are getting the most benefit from their donor dollar.
Starting your own personal giving plan
World-renowned 'giving' expert Tracy Gary has some great tips for people who want to learn about how to 'give well'.
One of the first things she suggests you do is to think about developing your own giving plan - this involves putting into place an action plan outlining the way you want to give. It becomes a very valuable way to work through in your own mind what is important to you, affording you a sense of control over the way you are giving.
Your plan can be short or long, detailed or very simple. The important thing is to go through a process of thinking about your giving so that you become a better informed and proactive giver.
Step 1: Why do you want to give?
A good starting point is to ask yourself why you want to give to your community.
Step 2: What causes should I give to?
Having worked through some of the reasons why you give, it becomes easier to work out who to give to. Some questions that may help you establish your priorities include:
- If I could change three things about my community, what would they be?
- What issues do I really care about?
- Should I support causes that directly benefit me?
- Am I willing to support causes that do not benefit me?
- Which type of work do I prefer to support - e.g. research, direct service, public education, self-help, advocacy?
Where to give
One important issue for you to consider is your own preference for giving in terms of location of the cause.
- Do you want to give to an organisation in your local community or region?
- How local is local? Is a group in your municipality local enough? Or do you want to support a group operating in your suburb? Or your street?
- Are you more interested in supporting a state, national, or international cause?
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.
Your definition of "community", whether it be geographical, social or economic will also affect your decision.
Step 3: Which organisations should I give to?
Once you have decided on the causes or issues you would like to give to, you need to choose the actual organisations you will support. A good starting point is to analyse your current giving.
- Make a list of the organisations you currently give to
- Identify why you got involved in giving to them. Were they deliberate choices or did you accidentally start giving to them and continue through habit?
- Do they still give you pleasure or do you need to change your giving to reflect your current interests?
If, after going through this process, you decide that you need to rearrange who you are donating to, the following may help you to select specific groups that reflect your interests and values:
- Make a list of all the community organisations that make a difference to your life and to the life 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.
- Do you feel indebted to any particular organisation?
- Do you like to know exactly what your money is supporting?
- Do you like to fund buildings?
- Do you like to fund specific projects?
- Do you prefer to give to organisations mainly run by volunteers?
- Do you prefer to give to small or large organisations?
- Do you prefer to support an organisation that is just getting started or one that is already well established?
How to evaluate an organisation
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 how 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 if the money I contribute is well spent?
- How will I know if my criteria are met?
- How will my contribution be used?
- Will my donation be spent on the issue or problem directly?
- Will my donation be tax deductible? (most smaller community groups do not have tax deductibility and most people never claim a tax deduction)
- How much of its budget is used for fundraising and administrative overheads?
- Is it willing to share information with me?
- Does the organisation establish personal relationships with donors? Will it respect my rights as a donor?