By Bruce DeBoskey
OVER THE WINTER holidays, people
are in a giving mood. We give to family. We
give to friends. And many of us choose this
generous time of year to give to charity.
Most of the nation’s 1. 6 million nonprofit
organizations ramp up their efforts to attract
donors over the holiday season. No matter
where you go, it seems as if someone doing
important work somewhere is asking for a
contribution of your time, talent or treasure.
No person or business can give to everyone who asks. You want your donations to
make a difference. How do you make the
right, most impactful decisions—not only
during the traditional giving season, but
also throughout the entire year?
1. Examine your reasons for giving.
Understand your own values and what you
want to accomplish for yourself, your family
and/or your business. Reasons for donating
can vary widely.
Individuals can be motivated by com-
passion, gratitude, tradition, religion, status,
peer pressure, taxes, moral duty, setting an
example, creating a legacy—even guilt.
2. Determine what impact you’d
like to have. Donors usually seek to help
others in need, find a solution to a problem,
advance a cause or preserve something of
value. It is better to have a tangible impact
on a smaller number of nonprofits than to
spread yourself too thin. In other words, go
deep, not wide, in your giving.
3. Involve your family and colleagues. In a family setting, involve your
children, grandchildren, parents and grandparents in developing your approach to philanthropy. Each generation has much to
teach and much to learn from the next. In a
business, working with employees, customers, suppliers and others can enhance the
impact of your philanthropic endeavors.
4. Develop a strategy. Knowing why
you’re giving and what outcomes you want
to achieve are the first two building blocks of
a philanthropic strategy.
You may also wish to seek input from
the four legs of the philanthropic planning
table: your tax, legal, financial and philanthropic advisers. Each of those experts can
play an important role in bringing their
expertise to help you develop a strategy that
achieves your philanthropic goals consistent with other important legal, tax and
5. Do some research. Make sure that
nonprofits that align with your values and
goals are financially sound. A nonprofit
should have 501(c)( 3) status that is approved
and current. To uncover accurate reporting
on how funds are spent, review annual
reports, audited financials and IRS Form
Accept that a reasonable percentage of
your donation will be used for the salaries,
technology and overhead needed to run the
nonprofit’s programs. There is no automatic
DECEMBER 2013 The Costco Connection 35
Nine tips for effective philanthropy
one-size-fits-all formula. Rather, each orga-
nization’s expenses must be assessed relative
to its size, programs, budget, etc.
6. Ask “So what?” Make sure that the
work of the nonprofit is making a real difference. A well-run nonprofit will accurately
measure and honestly describe its mission-related impact as well as areas where it hasn’t
yet met its goals. Ask “So what?” of nonprofits that report only on activities, rather than
on the outcomes they achieved or the difference they made. Look for evidence of long-term, systemic changes.
7. Volunteer your time. Cash is not
the only way to contribute to the community. Everyone can help in some way, regardless of assets. Volunteer activities are a great
way for families or co-workers to spend time
together, share values, learn about the work
of nonprofits and make a difference.
8. Give boldly. People rarely donate so
much money or time to charities that they
can no longer take care of themselves or
their family. Many of us can give far more
than we currently do without sacrificing our
quality of life or that of our loved ones.
Responding to matching gift challenges can
help your bold gift achieve even greater
reach and impact.
9. Start today. Your community, country and world need your help right now. The
sooner you begin to give more boldly and
purposefully, the sooner you will see positive results in your life, your business and
the lives of others. Be thoughtful, strategic
and effective with your giving—now and all
year. Everyone will reap the benefits. C
Bruce DeBoskey ( www.deboskeygroup.com)
is a Costco member and a Colorado-based
philanthropic strategist. He writes a column,
“On Philanthropy,” for The Denver Post.