4 Questions to Ask Before You Give

This blog post was provided by Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE.

Did you know that giving to charity will likely make you happy?  Research has found that people who give to charity are happier. And that warm feeling isn’t just for you – your gift makes Canada, and the world a better place.

But how can you give with peace of mind? There are many charities out there and it’s hard to choose. Here are 4 easy tips to help you make the best choice for you.

1. Ask yourself: “Why do I want to give?”

Each of us gives for different reasons. And there is no one “right” or “wrong” reason – just the reason that is the best fit for you. According to research by Imagine Canada and Statistics Canada, here are the most common reasons why Canadians give to charity.

  • compassion for those in need (89 percent);
  • personally believe in a cause and want to help (85 percent);
  • contribute to our communities (79 percent);
  • personally affected by an organization’s cause (61 percent);
  • religious obligations or beliefs (29 percent); and
  • income tax credit (23 percent).

Take a moment and think about what makes you want to support charity? There is no single right answer. By deciding what type of an impact you want to make, based on this list or your own reasons, you can better choose charities that are the right fit for you.

2. Ask yourself: “What means the most to you?”

Now that you have thought about why you want to give, think for a minute about what means the most to you in life. Take a few moments, close your eyes and think about this. Here is a list of categories to help you get started: animals, arts and culture, education, environment, health, Indigenous People, international, public benefit, social services, religion.

Knowing what moves you to give and what kinds of charities connect to you means you are ready to decide which charity. You now have a lot of information to help guide your decision in choosing which charity is the best fit for you.

3. Do you cheer for big and bold or small and mighty?

Are you a person who likes to keep your donation in your local community? Or would you like to give back to an organization that has helped you personally? Do you like the idea of using new approaches to solve complex problems? A small charity in your area may be what’s best for you. Small charities are often nimble and can be very cost-efficient.

Are you more drawn to stable success? Large charities are “tried and true.” Big charities are often closely monitored so the success in your investment will be more predictable. Do you want to make a gift that makes a difference and maximizes tax benefits? Larger charities often have more sophisticated fundraising staff so if this is your wish, then a bigger charity might be a better fit for you.

If you like the idea of helping both kinds of charities, consider mixing your giving. Maybe split your gift into three or four parts, and give some to a large charity while giving the rest to smaller organizations. Whether your gift to each charity is $35 or $35,000, by making a few different gifts you can be part of the success of both approaches small and large charities lead.

4. Give carefully to a registered charity.

When making a donation, it’s important to make sure to give to a registered charity with the Canada Revenue Agency to avoid  falling victim to a scam. To check, search for the charity name on the Canada Revenue Agency website here to see if it is registered. It should say “registered.”

If nothing appears, be sure you have the full legal name for the charity. The full legal name should be on their website. If something appears like “inactive” or the charity is not listed, do not give.

Also, don’t give to people who knock on your door, call you on the phone, or ask you to give on the street. If the charity sounds great, ask them for a brochure. You can give online to that charity through CanadaHelps and save yourself the worry. Plus, you can give using CanadaHelps knowing that all charities listed are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency.

But don’t worry, give happy!

Giving to charity is one of the most meaningful ways to make a difference in the world. By deciding why you give, the types of causes you want to support, and the kind of charities that fit your style, you can be sure your hard-earned money will be put to good use. Who doesn’t like being happy and helpful?

Ann Rosenfield, MBA, CFRE is the principal for Charitably Speaking. She gives to both large and small charities. Her favourite way to give is pre-authorized monthly gifts. She is the Board Secretary for Rainbow Railroad, a hands-on volunteer for Not Far From the Tree, and a volunteer with both the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Imagine Canada. The views in this article are her own.

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