By: Anne Digenis

We work with both our heads and our hearts when we choose a cause or charity to support. The head weighs costs and impact, while the heart pushes our passions and purpose forward. 

It’s a complex, and sometimes competing, balancing act that makes choosing a cause tricky. Andrew Carnegie recognized this more than a century ago. He said, “It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place.”

This statement is even more true today with more charities organizing awareness campaigns and more avenues open to advocate for causes personally. You can see this happening in southwest Washington every September during Give More 24! This 24-hour online giving marathon offers donors the opportunity to choose from more than 200 local nonprofits. With so many choices you might ask, “How do I choose a cause or charity to support?” 

Most of the time, we fall back on our instincts and choose a cause with the most “tug.” But reactive philanthropy, no matter how well intended, doesn’t always result in the most impact or personal satisfaction. Instead, we should assess the change we hope to create. Then, define how to most effectively apply our charitable dollars toward that goal.

Thinking strategically about your giving is not as quick or easy as giving to the cause of the day. However, it is more satisfying and impactful. With a few key steps anyone can learn how to choose a cause or charity that resonates with them personally. 

Identify Your Interests

List Values and Beliefs

Rewarding giving begins by looking inward. Let your heart be your guide here. Using a values-based approach aligns your giving with your personal interests. Use sticky notes to write down the values, beliefs and passions that are most important to you. Then, try to narrow them down to your top five. 

For a more structured approach, The Bridgespan Group offers an online worksheet that also assesses how people, places and philosophies influence our giving. Either way, you’ll come away with a more clear picture of how you want to make the world a better place. Those who give more often might even create a mission statement that formalizes and guides their approach to giving.  

Match The Missions

List Nonprofits that Alight with Goals

Once you’ve clarified how you want to make an impact, start searching for nonprofits that meet your basic requirements. If you want to give to local causes, Give More 24! can simplify your search. Donors can filter local nonprofits by category or keyword to find verified 501(c)(3) organizations that align with their goals.

You can also get to know local nonprofits by starting conversations with your friends and family or tapping into membership associations like Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington. As you explore the options and refine your priorities, make a list of organizations that you want to explore further.

Find the Facts

Refine and Research Promising Nonprofits

Ensuring your charitable dollars are well spent requires letting your head take the lead. If you’re planning to give during Give More 24! you can start researching by visiting a nonprofit’s profile page. Information provided here will show how the organization plans to use your contribution.

For more detailed information on local nonprofits, the Community Foundation has partnered with GuideStar to provide a Nonprofit Directory specific to southwest Washington. This customized tool allows users to browse through important nonprofit performance factors. Review an organization’s vision, budget and partnerships. GuideStar has one word of advice though: don’t use their data to perpetuate the Overhead Myth.

Give Your Gifts

Find Ways to Increase Impact and Get Engaged

Once you choose causes or charities that you feel are most effective and align with your charitable goals, it’s time to give. For those taking part in Give More 24!, you’ll want to wait until Thursday, September 24. That’s because this day of giving isn’t only a fun and easy way to make contributions; Give More 24! also allows you to multiply your gift through hundreds of thousands of dollars in matching funds and nonprofit prizes.

If you prefer to give another day, start by contacting the nonprofit to ask what, when and how you can donate. You might discover needs you hadn’t thought of or unique ways to amplify your impact. At the very least, you’ll make a personal connection, which is at least as valuable as your gift.

Afterall, the reward of giving is often linked to how involved donors become with an organization. Getting involved builds personal relationships and allows you to see the impact of your contributions first-hand. So, while finding a charity requires a bit of thinking, it’s your hands and your heart that truly find purpose in your cause.

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About The Author

Anne Digenis

Born in Seattle and raised in Portland, Anne Digenis is a graduate of Clark College and has resided in Vancouver for over 30 years. Anne has been working at the Foundation since 1997, providing ongoing assistance to donors by matching their charitable interests with community needs.