Advice to non-profit donors, from Paul English
- Budget. Come up with an annual "giving" budget for the
next ten years. Many people donate 10% of their total income
to nonprofit work each year - your number might be different. Even
small amounts can make a difference.
- Diversification. Just like your investments should be
diversified (index funds, bonds, real estate, cash), your non-profit
giving should also be diversified. Most importantly, you should give
to some groups which are local, and some which are
international. The local giving can connect you to your community
and your work. International giving can give you better ROI. Some
people do 80/20 others do 20/80 - pick the balance that seems right
- Leaders. Always be open to meet new non-profit leaders
which are recommended to you by friends. When you find a leader you
love -- compassion, drive, honesty, confidence, humility -- throw
money at them.
- Cash before Questions. When you find a leader you love,
start writing them checks, and then start asking questions. Many
donors waste enormous time of non-profit leaders putting through
long questionaires which can take tens of hours to complete, thus
taking them away from the actual work you want to support. I believe
in finding a great leader, backing them, and then seeing how I can
be more helpful to their work.
- Unrestricted. Most of my checks are unrestricted. When I
find a leader I love, I write them a check, and then let them decide
how to invest it. After all, if you love the leader, you should
trust their knowledge of how best to serve their constituencies
rather than having a donor thrust their own beliefs upon them.
- Focus. To give you the most leverage, you should focus
your giving. For example, I focus on education in Haiti and
homelessness in Boston. Having a focus like this means that
learning I get from one non-profit can help me with another
non-profit working in a similar space.
- Story telling. All change starts with a story. Be open to
learning the stories of the non-profits you like - join their email
list, follow them on social media, and go to occasional
meetings. The more familiar you get with their work - including
visits to their actual projects - the better you can do in telling
your own stories about their work, and thus helping "friendraise" to
bring more people into their circle.
- Gift Fund. Setup a charitable gift fund at
or The Boston Foundation.
Put money into this fund once a year - that will be the amount you
write-off on your tax return. Then anytime during the year, you
can make donations from this fund to any non-profit you want. You
can decide to make these donations in someone else's name or
anonymously if you choose.
See also my non-profits.