Every year, many of us are bombarded with fundraising pitches or donation campaigns from coworkers, friends and social media. While we all want to be a part of the greater good, the requests for support can be overwhelming. Here are some easy tips you can start using today to keep giving manageable, instead of stressful, and ensure that your donations have the greatest impact possible.
How to decide on a charity to support
Here are some ways to decide what organizations to patronize:
Consider what’s important to you
How do you know if you support a cause in the first place? Ask yourself straightforward questions such as: “What issues do I feel passionate about?” “Am I a dog/animal person?” “Is music important to a child’s life?”
This is the best way to know if an organization’s mission represents your values as a community member. For instance, if you love to run outdoors, seeking out a non-profit focused on preserving nature trails for hikers and runners could be supporting a resource you appreciate.
If you want to know, do not be afraid to ask
It is always okay to ask questions of the organization. Ask if you can visit their facility and see some of their work in action. If they refuse to provide answers, or run around the question, you might want to look elsewhere before giving.
Ask a friend
There is a good chance you already know someone who has worked with or volunteered at a local non-profit. If you are interested in supporting a program or event, look for recommendations from people you trust.
Know that time is often as valuable as money, and some employers will pay you to volunteer in their name. Ask around, your company may already have in place opportunities for community service projects like a beach cleanup. These are great ways to get out from behind the desk and bond with coworkers in a positive way. If you want to set up a community service project, have a simple team building pitch prepared for the next time a request for new ideas comes up during a staff meeting. Company branding, such as t-shirts or hats with a logo, is also a great way to do a little outside marketing by showcasing the business while contributing to the community.
How to say yes to a request to donate
This is the fun part. If the organization is doing work you care about and/or is selling something you want, and you have the means, support away and embrace the warm fuzzy feeling that accompanies giving back to the community.
Ask if the organization is a 501(c)(3)
When donating funds or items directly, ask if the organization is a 501(c)(3) that will provide a receipt for tax purposes. Be aware if you are purchasing items as part of a fundraiser, this is considered providing a product or service and therefore cannot be claimed on taxes regardless of the organization’s non-profit status.
Contribute money directly rather than buying candy or cookies
Ask your coworker selling cookies or other items how much of the money raised goes to the organization directly. 20%? 40%? 50% It brings the bottom line to the attention of the person asking for support and in many instances, it is better for all involved to make a direct $10 donation (and get a receipt) instead of purchasing $40 in candles and wrapping paper that you don’t need.
Give what is needed when giving in-kind donations
Often organizations such as food pantries and animal shelters have wish lists for specific items. Make sure to follow the wish list provided by the organization rather than assuming they can utilize whatever you bring. Drowning a small organization in unwanted products can be severe hindrance for them.
Avoid a story
Keep in mind there is no need to elaborate on why you give. Neither flaunt nor downplay support. If you are able to give a large sum, good for you! There is no need to make others who did not or could not give feel less worthy.
How to say no to a request to donate
Here are simple steps to say no to a donation request at work:
Keep your financial situation private
Making statements such as “I just don’t have the money” or “Oh, I wish I could help” opens you up for unintentional criticism in the workplace. For instance, saying you cannot afford to sacrifice a few dollars for an esteemed non-profit while drinking a coffee picked up on the way to work may be sending a more negative message than just saying, “No thank you.”
Keep it simple and professional
If you disagree with or don’t support the organization, this is not the time or place to make negative statements. Some offices have a policy about asking for donations and may require approval in advance or prohibit it altogether. When armed with this information, you may need to gently inform the person requesting funds of the office policy if they become too pushy.
Remember donating is always a choice
If you are required to attend a seminar focused on obtaining fiscal support of a nonprofit partner and you do not wish to donate simply fill in the amount as $0.00 and move on without guilt. If pressured to explain why, responses such as “personal preference is all” or “I choose to support organizations outside of work” are professional, succinct, and clear cut. Donations are just that – voluntary. Remember, if you do not personally support a cause, then do not feel the need to commit time or money to it.
Be aware of the follow up
Research supports if people give once, they are more likely to give again. Expect a follow up from an organization when you provided an address, e-mail, or checked a box agreeing to a mailing list. If this is a yearly campaign, be prepared for the pitch every year even if you said no in the past.