Early voting for the 2016 general election started Oct. 24 in many states and already, more than 22 million people have cast their votes. While the presidential race is center stage, there are many other items on the ballot that will have an impact on our lives. Therefore, it is important that we walk into the voting booth informed about candidates and issues on the national, state, and local levels. Giving works the same way. Careful examination is critical not only this political season but also as you make year-end giving decisions.
With the holidays approaching, you are likely to see an increase in fundraising requests from nonprofits requesting your support. One such promotion is the #GivingTuesday initiative. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, and popular shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is a global giving initiative that signals the start of “giving season.” Founded in 2012 by the New York 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, #Giving Tuesday leverages social media to highlight the work of nonprofit organizations and encourage generosity. Since 2012, 40,000 organizations from over 70 countries have participated in #GivingTuesday-related activities, and in 2015, $116.7 million was contributed by 700,000 online donors.
Because donating during #GivingTuesday and any other time is a “vote” of support, your voice matters just like it does in the elections. It matters to families in need, our collective health and well-being for future generations, and in so many other areas where charitable contributions and volunteerism serve as primary resources. As I always say, when it comes to philanthropic participation, it is important that we make well-informed decisions.
Research and analysis are key to giving consciously. Understanding issues facing our communities along the track records of service organizations plays an important role. Tools like nonprofit annual reports and external reporting sites such as Guidestar.org are great starting points for assessing organizational effectiveness. The Donor Bill of Rights developed by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel, Association for Healthcare Philanthropy, Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals can help you better understand the things you should expect from organizations that operate effectively and ethically.
Taking an internal “audit” of the values that influence your giving decisions ensures that your contributions are more than seasonal transactions. Studies show that donors have many motivations for giving, ranging from religious and moral beliefs to variations of self-interest and personal benefit. Whether your giving is tied to ideas about family legacy or supporting your business interests, being aware of your motivations can provide direction for where and how you give as well as what you expect your giving to produce.
Some may argue that what matters most in our voting and giving is representation. Indeed, representation is a crucial part of the conversation but when we have a voice, we are responsible for how we use it. Informed voters are more likely to make sound decisions and the same holds true for donors. While being informed does not guarantee that we will always make perfect choices, it ensures that we are aware of what is at stake when we make our voices heard.
Halima Leak Francis is a charitable giving advocate, fundraising consultant, and philanthropic adviser. Her work centers on promoting mindfulness in philanthropy and positive social change through giving and volunteerism. https://twitter.com/hleak