Think Philanthropically

In last month’s column we examined a few reason why a donor might say “no” to a funding request. In this month’s column we will examine some things an individual donor can do in order to have a bigger impact than they might imagine. I often correspond with generous donors who assume that their small gift is unimportant. Wrong! A donor may not have the financial resources of Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, but one does not need to be a multi-billionaire to make a huge difference.

“One does not need to be a multi-billionaire to make a huge difference.”

Let’s presume that a donor has done their due diligence and has identified an important cause that is worthy of support. What are some things that can be done beyond making an occasional donation? How can a donor ensure that they are truly helping an organization make a difference? Here are five different things that an individual donor can do in order to elevate their impact.

“When we are passionate about a cause we can make sure that elected officials and policy makers know about it.”

    1. Any donor can make a far more meaningful difference when they commit to a funding partnership. This can include making a funding commitment that is recurring, even if that commitment is as little as $10 per month. An annual pledge or signing up as a monthly donor makes a big difference. A donor might even consider providing sustaining donations for a specific initiative. When an organization has a steady base of support it can build from that platform rather than being in a continuous cycle of revenue starvation.
    1. A creative donor can help an organization if they are able to step up to support a specific funding gap. Such an effort might include something like funding of tools or supplies required on an ongoing basis to run an animal rescue operation. Equally, a donor could fund some of the less glamourous elements of a non-profit’s needs, like donating an amount equal to the heating and electrical costs for operating a building. Organizations can’t operate programs and services without infrastructure and maintaining facilities is costly but extremely important.
    1. A committed donor can engage with their network of friends and contacts to encourage others to buy tickets to an event, participate in an online silent auction or give to a campaign. Most of us have friends and relatives who may be interested in supporting causes that we support, provided they are invited to do so.
    1. A higher capacity donor can take action to generate leverage. Some donors like to provide seed money that can be used in a charity challenge whereby other individual donors will have their donation matched within a particular time frame. Most of us like to give if we know that our gift will be doubled by another donor. This often creates momentum in an organization’s fundraising campaign.
    1. Every individual donor can exercise some political influence. Frequently, as individuals, we may feel as if our ability to advocate for change is limited. Policy changes tend to come slowly but they are accelerated when public opinion on an issue coalesces. When we are passionate about a cause we can make sure that elected officials and policy makers know about it. When someone advocates for change by engaging with the right people in the right way it is a major catalyst for changes in public policy. As a donor, your concern may be the ethical treatment of animals, the promotion of the arts, elevating employment or educational opportunities for the disadvantaged or addressing the challenges of poverty. These concerns, and many others, cannot be solved by philanthropy alone. Front line organizations need dedicated donors who can influence policy makers. Our governments, federal, provincial or municipal need to change any number of things so that philanthropic organizations can take action that will generate impact and bring about the changes that we all want to see.

Sam Watts serves as the CEO of Welcome Hall Mission  He serves on several non-profit boards and is an appointed member of the National Housing Council of Canada.  He is the author of Good Work…Done Better

Related Posts