Anyone can be a philanthropist.
Philanthropy has a wonderful meaning…it’s simply the love of people.
Not only can you give financial resources to good causes, you can also share your skills and gifts to help solve many problems.
Where do I start?
When you don’t have a lot of experience giving to non-profit organizations, there are simple ways to look for worthy organizations. You may have a desire to be a part of a change and there are many non-profits who need your support.
- Passion—One of the first things I advise clients to do is to think about something that really irritates them in their local community, the national or even the international stage.
What’s not working? Is there a problem or challenge somewhere in the world that you feel most connected to? I bet at least one thing came to mind. Once you figure out what matters most to you do some research on who is already working in that space.
- Research—A bit of caution here. The Internet can be both helpful and overwhelming during this process. There will be many groups that emerge from a single search. Don’t let the initial results stop you from digging deeper and learning all that you can from prospective organizations.
Read about the issues that you care about. For example, say that I’m interested in children’s education. I’m frustrated that many students are graduating high school without the readiness and preparation to navigate the world around them. Points-of-interest could include the sciences, literature, the arts, financial literacy, conflict resolution, etc.… Dig deeper and learn how and why the systems in place are the way they are.
Part of the process is learning more about a topic you’re interested in. This is where some may lose patience, but for others it can open up a whole new world and lead to the discovery of something you may have not thought about before. In fact, some philanthropists find that this connects them in ways they never imagined—not unlike going down an unfamiliar path and meeting interesting people along the way.
For many donors, they have already given to several causes, but they don’t really have a sense of where their dollars are actually going. Looking at sites like GuideStar or Charity Navigator can help you see the reports that organizations are required to create and maintain accountability of their non-profit status. This also includes larger non-profits like schools, hospitals, and religious organizations.
Reports to look for include an organization’s tax return (Form 990) and their tax exemption status letter.
These were a few thoughts to get you started in thinking about the world of non-profits and philanthropy.
Now go find your passion and learn as much as you can about it!
Searching for your passion? Looking for ways to give? Contact Maya for a consultation.