How Do You Choose a Charity to Support?

Nov. 29, 2021 null

This is the time of year when my family’s mailbox starts to fill. Greetings from friends and family feel especially precious this year as we’ve spent time apart while also experiencing the hope of celebrations and milestones to come. Like many of you, our mailbox and inbox also fill with appeals from incredibly deserving nonprofit organizations who consistently rise to the challenges our community faces and help us build an even stronger future in Central Iowa. We wish we could support each of these organizations, but we simply can’t! There are so many organizations doing so much good work, so how do you choose a charity to support? How do you begin to learn about the nonprofits in Greater Des Moines?

1.       Start with your interests.

Before you begin considering organizations to support, consider your own interests and value. Values are the characteristics we hold of greatest personal importance. They reflect our core principals and how we live our lives. Reflect on your values and try to create a list of your top three.

Then consider your interest areas. What are you passionate about? What are the challenges and opportunities that pull on your heart strings? Try to determine your top three interests.

From there work to develop a charitable mission statement that can help guide where and how you want to give. Your mission statement should be a clear expression of your philanthropic goals and giving priorities, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. When drafting your charitable mission statement, think about your values and interests, what can influence the issues you care about and your action steps that will support these areas. By creating a mission statement, you can begin to narrow your charitable focus and provide investments in the areas that connect to your passion.

2.       Make giving a group activity.

There is true joy in giving and we want to share that joy with others. As you are seeking to learn more about nonprofits in Des Moines, check out GIVEdsm.org. GIVEdsm is a website featuring local projects in need of community support. The online format provides a unique opportunity to engage across generations to learn about needs, opportunities and each other’s interests. The Community Foundation staff approves all projects posted to GIVEdsm so you can be assured they are associated with qualified 501(c)(3) organizations. This allows you the opportunity to give with confidence and focus on the charitable conversation. Additionally, you can sort projects by your areas of interest on the website to narrow results to make connections that count. My kids enjoy looking through the site on their own and then ask questions about projects that peak their interests! It gives us an opportunity to talk about giving as a family.

If you are looking for even deeper discussion, gather your loved ones together in-person or online with our expertly trained staff members to take advantage of Strategic Giving Services. Our team works alongside you to lead discussions, learn about your interests and then present giving opportunities that match your goals.

3.       Do your homework.

We all want to make good investments; our charitable dollars are no different. As you consider supporting an organization new to you, take time to learn more about their work. Consider touring the facility or finding a time to speak directly with staff or volunteers. Not only will you be able to determine if this organization matches your interests, you could be introduced to specific projects or volunteer opportunities that you weren’t aware were available.

If you want to take an even deeper dive, look for signs of organizational effectiveness. Ask the organization to share more about their strategy and their measurable outcomes so you can feel confident they are striving each day to meet their mission. Consider learning more about the organization’s financial situation by looking at an audit, financial review or 990 as a starting place. Remember, leadership at the staff and board level is important, too; are they effective, engaged and aligned in their work?

4.       Think of giving as a part of your overall financial portfolio.

I truly believe you get more when you give. While this phrase references the feeling of joy and fulfillment that comes with supporting our community, it can also be realized in the strategies you employ to make a difference. Selecting organizations to support is a personal decision reflective of you and your experiences. Likewise, maximizing your giving through tax-wise strategies is also highly personal. When most of us think of giving we think of opening our checkbook or wallet, but there may be other assets you currently hold that provide more tax-wise strategies.

For example, gifts of stock, real estate, retirement assets or bequests could provide opportunities to offer more support to the causes you care about than a gift of cash. Or perhaps you have been offering support for years, but you want to ensure that generosity can transition to giving into your retirement years or for generations to come. Certainly, all gifts are generous and appreciated, but consider charitable conversations with your financial advisor, estate planning attorney or CPA to ensure they are aware of your giving goals so they can help you craft strategies that work best for you.

This holiday season I have much for which to be grateful. I consider it one of my greatest blessings to call Greater Des Moines home. A community where I am proud to work, raise my family and give. Thank you for all you do to make our region better together.