Making an Impact


People give to charity for many different reasons, but one thing they all share is the desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Opportunities abound for generous people to give to a good cause. Large national and international organizations vie for donations, small local charities fundraise and, lately, direct appeals through sites like GoFundMe have been thrown into the mix. With so many outlets for our generosity, how do we determine where it is best to make a gift?

Large or Small Charities?

In previous articles, I have suggested that people need to give in a way that maximizes impact, but even impact has variables to consider. Both large and small charities do good work and need a steady stream of donations throughout the year, but they often have different strengths.

Small charities can be nimble, meeting a variety of local needs quickly while remaining personally connected to the communities they serve. Large organizations, because of their size and widespread brand recognition, can often utilize economies of scale while engaging governments and the private sector to address large scale problems and are able to reach a broad array of people. Your local soup kitchens or shelters may be best-positioned to make a meaningful impact on homelessness in your city, whereas a large multi-national charity might be best at responding to an acute disaster or reaching people in need overseas.

Long-Term or Short-Term Impact?

Consider a $10,000 gift given to two different charities. $10,000 given to a large charity, such as a hospital foundation, will be gratefully accepted and will support the overall mission, but might actually have little impact on individuals in the short term. The very nature of a hospital foundation is to provide support for a hospital over the long term. If that same donation were given to a local soup kitchen, it could be used immediately to buy food and feed hungry people, especially now in the coldest months of the year. However, it is very possible that those funds might be gone by the time the spring arrives. While these two scenarios are quite different, it is important to keep in mind that both have their place. One is not better than the other.

The Key

Understanding the potential impact of your donation and how that aligns with your values is the key to making choices about giving; it’s important to not only be familiar with the causes we want to support, but to understand the nonprofits working in that space and how they work in that space.

Contributed by Darren Pries-Klassen

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