As Christmas dawns and another year is coming to a close, donation season is in full swing. Among the things we need to deal with in detoxifying charity, we must consider the role that donors/donations play. How do we give in ways that promote responsible charity? Ginny Giles, a long-time professional fund-raiser and the Advancement Director for Good Samaritan Ministries, share four pieces of advice for detoxifying our giving.
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We often put the responsibility of serving and ministering to the poor into the hands of churches and other nonprofit institutions. But what responsibility do private financial donors have? With so many organizations competing for our donations, how can we know we are being good stewards of our money and contributing to impactful and empowering charity?
As a professional fundraiser I study the work of philanthropy, and I get to interact with all sorts of donors. I have seen some donors dow a couple things that make their gifts go farther. When I started following their example in my own giving, I found the results deeply rewarding. Whether you give $10 a month or $50,000 a year, these practices can help you share your financial resources in ways that are rewarding to you and impactful for community.
Follow Your Passion
Maybe it's obvious, but giving to something that ignites your passion matters. Be prayerful about your gifts, and commit to long-term giving. A multiyear commitment will build a stronger connection between you and the organization/community. It will allow you to see the lasting results of your donations. Giving to my passion has increased my personal giving. Because I have been giving to a particular organization for many years, I have become highly invested in its success and have frequently made sacrifices so I can give more - and give it joyfully.
Invest More Than Your Money
You have more to offer than money. Seek out an organization that treats you as a partner. Consider volunteering. Learn how you can advocate for the organization. Invite your network to donate - people are more likely to give when someone they know has publicly said they give. Sharing your network with the organization is extremely valuable.
Learn WITH the Organization
Look for an organization that is trying new things. Is the organization trying to move from relief to development? If so, they're trying new things. They are learning, and they might even be making mistakes. Ask them about these things. Ask what values drive their decisions. Ask about something they tried that failed. I wish more donors did this - there is absolutely nothing I love more than getting coffee with a donor and talking about these things. When a community has wise and educated donors who listen to the needs of the marginalized, it becomes a community where lives are restored and the Kingdom is glimpsed.
Know What Success Looks Like
This can be a tough one for some folks. Be honest, is the purpose of your gift to make you feel good or is it to accomplish something for the recipient? (Maybe a combination of both?!) Maybe you give as an expression of your faith? Adopt-a-family donations at Christmas time are especially popular. They sure feel good to the donors, but are they really what is best for the families? Instead, consider a partnership where parents can purchase presents for their own children. For larger donations, consider giving to capacity building activities or expenses that aren't typically funded by grants. Ask the organization if there is a project they have been having a hard time funding or what project would make the most impact on the community. When you stay focused on the result - less people in poverty, increased access to affordable housing or food - your giving will be impactful and empowering.
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Ginny Giles is the Advancement Director for Good Samaritan Ministries in Holland, MI and has been building bridges between donors, volunteers, and the marginalized members of her community for over 15 years. Good Samaritan Ministries uses Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) to end poverty and homelessness in their community.