When was the last time you felt happy after giving something? 

It feels great, right?  That feeling that you have made a positive difference in the world – no matter what you gave, exactly – can really brighten your day. 

Your generosity may be even more powerful than you realize.  Did you know that studies show that the benefits of philanthropy extend to the giver as well as the recipients?  For example, this article from the Cleveland Clinic states that giving can lower blood pressure, increase self-esteem, and even lengthen your life! 

But what if your giving could have even more impact?

With a little thoughtful planning, it probably can.  Giving with impact is easier than you might think.  And you don’t have to give big to make a big difference!  Small, thoughtful acts of philanthropy can do great things and have a lasting impact – both for the causes that matter to you, and to you, the giver.

Here are 5 helpful questions to consider to help you make your giving even more powerful.

  1. What values are most important to me?
    • Faith, family, or social issues may come to your mind.  Your personal life experiences may point you to a cause.  Take a moment to reflect upon what’s really important to you and how you can align your passions with your philanthropy (and how good that would feel!).  If you need a little help, check out Phil’s article on core values.
  2. Where can I do the most good?
    • Maybe you could do some research to find if there’s a local organization that could really benefit from your giving.  A few dollars to them might mean more than the same amount to a large organization.  Or, might there be narrower aspects of a bigger cause that have been overlooked?  For example, rather than “supporting wildlife,” what about supporting a project to plant trees in a specific area that has been ravaged by wildfires?  Before you donate, try asking around to find out about specific opportunities to support the cause you are interested in.
  3. Which organizations address the issue(s) I want to support?
    • Doing your due diligence (ie, a little internet searching) can be very helpful here.  Regardless of the size of the organization, focus on groups that know what they’re doing and have a clear explanation for how your donations will be used.  Independent organizations such as Charity Navigator or GuideStar can help you identify charities that use donations wisely.
  4. What exactly do I want to give?
    • Who says giving has to be dollars?  Appreciated assets, time, and your own personal skills could all be very valuable to causes you care about.  And if you are at the age where you have to take RMD’s (Required Minimum Distributions) from an IRA or 401k account, consider using QCD’s (Qualified Charitable Distributions) as a wonderfully tax-efficient way to benefit both you and the charity.  (Ask us if you want to learn more about QCD’s.)
    • Bonus tip: Don’t forget the paperwork!  Regardless of what you give, be sure to ask for a receipt of your donation so you can take full advantage of the tax benefits of giving.   
  5. What does success look like?
    • How do you know if you are making a difference?  First, you need to know what success looks like!  What changes do you expect from your donations?  How do you evaluate success?  For example, do you want to help ensure that disabled veterans don’t go hungry over the holidays?  Or that the dogs at the local shelter get foster homes?  This is a great opportunity to discover if your vision mirrors that of the organization, as well as to make real change in the world. 

When we take the time to think carefully about why we want to give and what we really want to achieve, we can get a clear idea of our motivations and goals for philanthropy.  Thinking ahead about how we give can also help maximize the financial and tax benefits of our philanthropy. 

Creating a mindful giving strategy can not only increase the satisfaction of giving; it can also help to create greater change in the world.  It’s a win-win!

Wishing you a season of generous joy,