When December rolls around, the phone calls, e-mails, letters and old-fashioned in-person solicitations seem to come in a flood. Every charitable cause seems to want to be in touch, with you, knowing as they do that it’s the end of the calendar year and thus their last chance to obtain your contribution, in exchange for a nifty tax deduction pursuant to Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). Now, I am a law student who is particularly interested in the law relating to nonprofit organizations and charitable giving, so I could talk (or write!) your ears (or eyes!) off about this, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll share a few tips for choosing a worthwhile cause to donate to, or for raising money for a cause yourself. As we look ahead to 2015, I’m hopeful as always that giving will be on the rise. I’m by no means an expert, but I’m seriously wonky about this stuff!
For donors overwhelmed by the sheer number of different organizations, one of the best ways to start is to clear away the fliers and to think about what sort of donation you personally want to make. There are many factors to consider, and these are just a few:
- Sector: Do you want to donate to education, to healthcare, the arts, animal welfare, or another area?
- Location: Do you want to contribute within your local community, or on a state, national, or international level, or to a specific community elsewhere?
- Program (or not): Do you want your donation to fund a particular program, or would you rather it go toward the general operating costs of a charitable organization?
- Type of donation: Do you want to give money, or can you contribute your time to volunteering and using your particular skills to help an organization?
Once you’ve thought about this, you can narrow the list of possibilities to those that are best suited to the donation you want to make, and go from there. If you’re thinking about going beyond a local community organization, an excellent place to check out charities is Guidestar.org.
For fundraisers trying to meet a goal by a certain date, there are also specifics to consider. Reaching out through social media and putting flyers on bulletin boards at school, work, or in the community is just the start. Often, just casually slipping into conversation that you’re fundraising for a particular cause is enough to enervate the giving spirit at a gathering. Friends, family, classmates and co-workers are of course potential donors, but they are part of a bigger picture. Just asking your friends to mention your efforts to their friends can do wonders. As long as you are passionate about your cause, others will be too.
Keep in mind that simply soliciting donations is just one way to fundraise. You can put your skills to use and offer to babysit or build a bookshelf, putting the profits of your work toward your fundraising goal. You can hold a yard sale, or consign clothes online, noting carefully where the proceeds will be directed. Friends and family can get in on these efforts, making it a team endeavor. You might even decide that fundraising is indeed fun! Because in the end, it’s not about the amount you raise personally. It’s about giving something of yourself to help make a difference, and just making the effort is a step in the right direction.
Well, that’s all for 2014…wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!
PS: Check out this New York Times article on giving and socially responsible investment…timely and thought-provoking.
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