Whether you are planning charitable giving and volunteerism for yourself, your family or your company, this guide is a great tool to start the journey of discovery.
Charitable giving comes in many forms and includes time as well as financial gifts. Thoughtful donors keep a few things in mind as they start to consider why and how they want to make their gifts.
Choosing a Cause and Charity
- Identify what passionately moves you, and find organizations that are serving that cause or audience.
- Consider if you want to create a relationship where your family (and perhaps your employees) can become engaged, too. If you are including your family members and/or employees, seek their input about causes that passionately move them.
- Be thoughtful about whether you want to create a deep, lasting and ongoing relationship or if you want the flexibility to change and act more broadly as your interests change.
- Do your homework. Visit websites and read the Form 990s to understand how charities raise money and how much of it actually stays in the local community where it was raised. Check out independent ratings from GuideStar and Charity Navigator. Effective charities are transparent about fundraising and expenditures, post their 990s and annual reports on their websites and cheerfully answer questions about their financial business.
- Determine your criteria for measuring what’s important in terms of results. Remember that low overhead is an outdated way to judge effectiveness. It is much more valid to ask about the level of impact created by the organization, i.e., how many lives are changed by this organization? How does it measure the effectiveness of what it does?
For Giving Financially
- Look at the sustainability of your giving. Don’t ask a charity to create a new program and then find different funding to sustain it in a couple of years. Be committed to the long haul if you truly want to create change.
- Be creative. Consider giving life insurance, estate planning, stock transfers, asset transfers or other financial strategies, in addition to cash.
For Giving Time
- Identify how much time you can give, and how frequently you (and your employee or family team) can do the volunteer commitment.
- Think about how hands-on you really want to be. Do you want to donate your talents in bookkeeping, marketing or construction that you do (or did) everyday to earn a living? Or, do you want to volunteer in a completely different capacity and learn something new?
- Can you commit to others to show up on a regular basis? From coaching little league to being a scout leader or a mentor in the schools, when you make a commitment to change human lives, people are counting on you.
For Creating a Legacy
- Consider how to create a legacy program so your efforts can be continued over time by your company, its employees or your children as an ongoing financial or time commitment. Locally, Nationwide Insurance has committed to sending a team of associates to pack backpacks of food for kids once a week for the last several years.
- Tell others. Engage your friends, neighbors and business associates. Be an evangelist for the causes that are important to you. Look at programs like those of Front Street Commercial Real Estate, where 10 percent of all corporate profits are donated to local charities and clients are engaged in the good work along with Front Street.
When you decide what it is you want to do and you’ve researched charities, it is time to reach out and get involved. Locally, you can use this guide and you can periodically visit volunteerselect.org, a free service offered by United Way of North Central Florida that is open to any 501(c)(3) charity. Postings, updated regularly, show all types of volunteers needed in the area, from volunteers needed to deliver meals to seniors, serve as members of boards of directors or give one day of service as additional staff for special events such as golf tournaments, galas, auctions and more.
Place calls to the organizations you are interested in, and spend some time interviewing each organization. Nonprofits that provide hands-on services by volunteers are required by law to do criminal screenings and background checks before you can come on site to begin your volunteer work. There is a cost associated with this, so be sure to ask the nonprofit if you can reimburse them for this cost.
Find Your Joy
Scientific studies demonstrate that people who give to charities become more engaged in their communities and are happier, more successful individuals at work, home and school. Engaging children in volunteering and charitable giving creates a culture of servant leadership that will sustain children through their adult lives and create generational society change.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I invite you to lose yourself in service to the wonderful people of Alachua County and our North Central Florida area. Through service to one or more of our local nonprofit charities, what you find will be an even better version of YOU.