5 Smart Ways to Approach Philanthropy in 2020 and Beyond


Set up a recurring gift. It is tempting to give only when there is an emergency. Frequently, the urgency of a relief campaign is what grabs someone’s attention and moves them to take action and give for the first time. Unfortunately, the importance of long-term support after a disaster is not communicated as well. Setting up a recurring gift to an organization is a way to make an impact now and later (after the news cycle moves on). Determine how much you can afford to give an organization for a year. Visit the organization’s website or call and make a pledge to give that amount in 12 monthly installments. Your support will help the organization weather the current storm and be better equipped to respond to the next crisis.

Make unrestricted donations. Find a organization that you trust to get the job done and make a donation to their general operations. Trust the staff and board leadership to do what is best with donated funds. Even if they ask you to give in support of a specific program, know they need the unrestricted money more and give it.  You will help fund the program and give the organization flexibility to meet the other needs associated with achieving its goals. The idea of giving to exclusively support  a sliver of an organization’s work or trying to avoid funding the people who do that work is problematic in myriad ways. Bottom line, restricted giving typically just creates another pocket of need. Just don’t.

Vet with your own values. A donor should trust the board and staff of any organization they support to be good stewards of their funds. This trust is often established through a vetting process. The calculations used by nonprofit “rating” sites serve a purpose, but are never sufficient as the sole method of vetting an organization’s value or effectiveness. Avoid the pitfalls of an overhead ratio spiral and start with a basic common sense vetting instead. Call the nonprofit you want to know more about. Ask questions about the organization’s values and what you can help them accomplish with your giving. Listen to the answers. When it’s safe to meet in person, schedule a visit or sign up to volunteer.  Make the effort in 2020 to go beyond the surface and find out what organizations really have to offer.

Give to alleviate debt. Billionaire Robert Smith’s promise to pay off student loans of the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College set the internet on fire. Fortunately, the life-changing power of debt cancellation is also within reach for the everyday giver. In fact, The Concord Baptist Christfund, established in 1988 by the everyday givers of The Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Brooklyn, NY recently partnered with RIP Medical Debt to erase more than $4 million in medical debt for over 4,500 people in Brooklyn, NY and Newark, NJ. They did it with a $35,000 donation.  RIP purchases qualifying medical debts in bundled portfolios at a fraction of their face value. The unique partnership allowed one donated Christfund dollar to abolish approximately $100 of medical debt.

Subscribe to What’s Fresh? This year demands that we reconsider almost everything. As a philanthropist, this is a great time to re-examine how you give. Whose blueprint are you following and why? Most philanthropists are not billionaires. To be a well-rounded philanthropist, think about who you are learning from. Fresh Philanthropy wants to promote more confident giving to local, effective, and under the radar organizations. Subscribe to What’s Fresh?, the Fresh Philanthropy list for community, inspiration and information from the world of philanthropy.


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