148_thinking_person2If your email inbox looks anything like mine you have been getting inundated with requests to give to specific charities on Colorado Gives Day next week. Colorado Gives Day, on December 10 this year, is an annual opportunity for Coloradans to “give where they live.” Even if you do not live in Colorado you are still welcome to participate. The appeal, sponsored by the Community First Foundation in Denver, is designed to bring awareness and financial support for local organizations serving the needs of Colorado citizens. To participate, simply go to coloradogives.org and select one or more charities to support.
All charities listed have been vetted to ensure that your dollars are going to a bonafide 501(c)(3), and there are financial statements and annual reports on the website to aid in your selection.

Over the past few years the Colorado Gives Day web site has had intermittent trouble handling the load during peak hours on Colorado Gives Day. You have the ability, if you choose, to go online now and make your gift early. It will be processed on Colorado Gives Day and will be included in the campaign total.

So, let’s get down to business. You have $X to give away, and you have 97 requests for donations. How do you decide where to invest those dollars for maximum charitable impact? Following are 3 factors that you can use to make your decision:

Research

It is incumbent upon us to know where we are investing our philanthropic dollars. These days, most well-managed and reputable organizations will value transparency and make a lot of info available on their website. Things such as their annual reports, form 990s, organizational contacts, etc. should be available for you to review. Whenever possible it would be positive for you to visit the organization and see first-hand what is going on. The more you know, the more comfortable you will be endorsing their work by making a contribution.

Impact

Most of us are unable to give to all of the organizations who ask us. For this reason, we have to make choices about when to say yes and when to say no. Another choice that we make is regarding how much of an impact that we want to make. Some people who are giving away money, let’s say $1,000, choose to give $50 to twenty organizations. Others will give $1,000 to one organization. Many others will fall somewhere in between. This is more of a matter of personal preference, but it is something to think about. For some people, it is difficult to say no to any group and so spreading a little to multiple groups is preferable.

Values

What do you care about? All of us are asked for money for things that we care about as well as for things in which we may not be as interested. Whether it is drilling a well in Africa or sending a child from the inner city to camp during the summer, we all have things that we prioritize over others. If you are being asked to donate to multiple different causes this is a fundamental issue that you need to resolve. There are those of us who cannot bring ourselves to give to international aid because there is so much need here at home. Conversely, there are those who feel that even poor people here are so much better off than people in developing countries and so they prefer to direct their money overseas. There is no shortage of opportunities; we are only limited by our dreams and our dollars available for philanthropy.

Regardless of your focus, just give. We have had a difficult year here in Colorado in 2013. We have encountered fires, floods, drought – there are many people suffering in many ways and you have the power to do something about it.

Have a great week,

KLM

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