Part III – Putting Together the Puzzle
“Not everything that counts can be counted – and not everything that can be counted counts.”
– Albert Einstein
What counts when determining whether you will give to a nonprofit organization? What matters to you most? Is it the mission? Is it how they deliver programs and services? Is it who they are reaching or what they are providing? Is it the people who lead the work? Is it the outcomes of the work or the changes they make for the people they serve? Is it the financial size or health of the organization? How do they get their funding? Is it how you feel about their work or the people in the organization? There are no wrong answers, there is only a place where you feel comfortable, confident, and able to engage in learning more.
As a philanthropic advisor, I work with donors to explore nonprofit organizations. Our team asks questions to better understand what matters to each of our donors and acts as a guide to help donors access and discover the information they need to make their own philanthropic decisions. Every donor is different, but here are a few recommendations on a process that can help bring the pieces of the puzzle together in a way that does not overburden a nonprofit:
- Step 1: Get to Know You – We encourage donors to get to know themselves and spend some time considering the prompts in Parts I and II of this series. Better understanding the motivations that drive your charitable giving will help you to identify the types of nonprofit organizations where you will find meaningful investment. We have found that donors who spend time to get to know themselves as a philanthropist often can articulate their intentions with greater clarity to both nonprofits and others who are participating with them in charitable giving.
- Step 2: Do Some Homework – Learn about nonprofits you are interested in by utilizing information that is publicly available. The organization’s website and Guidestar profile are a great way to review organizational history, financials, staffing information, program outputs and outcomes, etc. If you know someone who is close to the organization, ask them about their experience. Build your pool of questions for the organization.
- Step 3: Ease into Engagement – Consider continued learning through activities that the organization is already doing. This could include volunteering to support a component of programming, attending a fundraising or programming event, signing up for a newsletter or regular communications, following the organization on social media, etc. These engagements may answer some questions and/or bring others to the surface.
- Step 4: Request a Site Visit or Meeting – If the organization is still of high interest and you have questions you would like answered before making a grant, consider requesting a site visit or a meeting with the nonprofit staff. On site visits, you will typically get a tour of the organization’s operations, meet the people who are engaged in the work, and have an opportunity to dialogue with staff who can answer your questions. Please reach out to our Philanthropic Advising team if you would like help coordinating these engagements. We encourage donors to reflect on the time site visits and meetings take from the nonprofit and recommend selecting organizations that align with your purposeful work and staying no longer than one hour. Even if you determine that the organization is not a good fit for your continued philanthropic engagement, a small grant to say thank you for taking the time away from your day is a nice way to honor their time.
As you move through this process you might gain a better understanding of what matters to you when learning about nonprofit organizations. You might also find that not all the things that matter can be counted; some things may be embedded in your engagement and the relationship that you build with a nonprofit. Building out a process for gathering information utilizing various sources and types of information can empower you to make more thoughtful and purposeful decisions in your charitable giving.
So, as we settle into 2023, what are your intentions for this year? Will you use quotes, thoughts, ideas, or words like Dr. Hacker? Or are you drawing from other inspiration to guide you? And, how is your vision for this year influencing your philanthropy? As you’re working through these questions, my team and I are here to help you process and chart your giving journey in any way that’s helpful for you. We’re wishing you well in everything you do in 2023 and if nothing else, I hope this post has made you excited to watch the Women’s World Cup this summer.
“Do your homework. Find your voice. Be authentic. And then dive in with purpose.” – Julie Foudy
A note from the author: Be sure to read part one and part two of this series to have a full understanding of how to build your philanthropic playbook.
Authored by: Kelli Doyle, Senior Philanthropic Advisor