Why I Donate

Earlier this week I received an email from a nonprofit leader with the subject line ‘Supporting Non-Profits.“  The email read as follows:

Brian -

Just read your post on Fast Company from 3 years ago (sorry for being late to the party).

"The Cone list is littered with groups that I supported in the past, but no longer give time or money to today.  I haven’t stopped giving my money and time to groups, quite the opposite in fact, but I have found many other organizations who are doing more and better work to address the issues that I believe are important in ways that I know are having a greater impact.  And I know I am not the only one.”

If you don’t mind, could you tell me the biggest factors that affect your charitable giving? How are you able to cut through the groups that talk about the issues and support the ones that tackle them?

It is a difficult question and one that I have been thinking about a lot lately.

I don’t feel as if I have a lot of money to just give away, especially when I don’t see the direct impact that my (inevitably small) contribution would make.  I want to make a contribution and know that I am making a difference, and feel like I have a connection to the organization I am supporting and know they truly value my commitment and our relationship. 

I haven’t been donating much of late.  Frankly, I don’t see many organizations tackling issues the way I would hope, nor do I feel appreciated for the contributions that I do make. 

I give when I am able to see clearly that a group is being smart and communicating well.  I sometimes give when a friend asks - but mostly because I want to support my friend, and not necessarily because I believe the organization deserves the support.  And I give to see what I can learn from a group.  Mostly, I find myself buying things that end up having some benefit to an organization – for example: I bought a book about ending malaria.  But, to be clear, I bought the book because I was interested in the issue, and curious to see whether value of the book itself lived up the hype it was receiving (note: I wrote a post about how I thought it could have been so much more) – knowing that money went to support Malaria No More wasn’t a major factor in my decision making.

I definitely prefer to share expertise, because I believe that is the most valuable thing that I can offer.  I wouldn’t mind sharing connections or making introductions, but I do hesitate because most organization in my experience treat people as nameless, faceless donors, and I value the people in my network more than that.  And I’m willing to give information… data… about myself, about my experiences, etc. to help an organization get smarter. Of course, I don’t get asked for that kind of stuff very often.

What about you?