Make Your Philanthropy Go Further

Guest Correspondence

BY ROXIE JERDE SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUL 4, 2015

Giving money to a cause is easy, but when you see yourself as an investor in creating good for the people, places or animals you care about, giving can become even more meaningful. Our community offers so many ways to be part of a positive outcome, especially when you view yourself as a force behind achieving results. 

As a philanthropic leader, I’m often asked by donors around the community how we determine whether or not a nonprofit or one of its programs is a good investment. The solution is simple: be proactive, do research, open up a dialogue, and ask questions.

Independent philanthropy has grown, and more and more people of every age and resource level are not just giving but actively participating in the organizations they deeply care about.

While it’s important to align your values with your dollars, it’s also important to consider if your investment is moving the needle, no matter if you have $50 or $50,000 to give.  

Here are four powerful questions you can ask nonprofit organizations when considering an initiative or program to support:

  • How are your programs and services impacting people in the short-term?
  • In the long-term, how will my dollars create positive change?
  • How do you monitor and report on success?
  • What are some specific examples of success?

Also vital in identifying whether a nonprofit is effective enough to warrant your philanthropic resources is figuring out whether the organization has strong, committed and ethical leadership, diverse funding sources, and the ability to articulate goals.

There are some great tools available to allow yourself to do your own investigating. Open to philanthropists of all shapes and sizes, The Giving Partner (http://www.thegivingpartner.org) is an online tool that provides in-depth information about more than 430 nonprofit organizations that serve Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties. Each of these nonprofits has made a commitment to transparency by sharing verified, detailed information on programmatic results, leadership, governance and financial history. Organizations can also list needs and current matching opportunities, so you can know how to get the greatest impact out of your dollars.

Even if you want to share your time or talent, The Giving Partner can help you find organizations that appeal to you and can tell you a lot about whether you might be a good fit for a volunteer, consulting or board position.

Lastly, transparency works both ways. Don’t just be a dollar sign or another name on a mailing list to a nonprofit. If you are truly viewing your donation as an investment, think of yourself as a partner and help the organization understand your aspirations and expectations for your charitable dollars, as well as the impact you want to make.

When it comes to so many things in life like thinking about what school you’re going to send your child to, what hotel you stay in for your next vacation, diversifying your investment portfolio or even smaller decisions like which new smartphone to buy, doing your homework and making an informed decision is a no-brainer. Why should it be any different with philanthropy?

SRQ Daily columnist Roxie Jerde is the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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