Giving to a cause you care about is so important when it comes to sparking real change to tackle some of the world’s biggest issues. However, deciding how you give, how much to give, and where to donate can be overwhelming with so many options available.
Creating a strategic giving plan can empower you to make intentional decisions about donating your time or money, andallow you to leave behind any guilt when saying no to other opportunities when you may be asked to give.
In this blog, the steps to build a custom strategic giving plan are all laid out. We will provide tips and resources to help you make informed decisions and make a plan that works for you!
Step 1: Why Do You Give?
Understanding why you want to donate is essential, as it allows you to be moreintentional and connected with your giving. Knowing your “why” helps you identify causes and organizations that align with your values and beliefs, ultimately making it easier and more meaningful to engage in generosity.
Here’s an exercise to find your charitable giving why:
On your blank piece of paper, write out as many personal experiences, stories, and values that have previously moved you to donate or engage in charitable giving. This could include experiences that directly inspired you to donate to a cause, attend a protest, educate yourself as an ally, or volunteer your time in support of. The number of experiences you list doesn’t matter, so don’t overthink it.
After you have brainstormed this list, take a look at all of your experiences and see if you can identify a common theme or motivator that could answer the question “Why do I give?” Write this down at the bottom or the back of your brainstorming page.
Your “why” doesn’t need to be complicated. It can be as simple as “I’ve benefited from a charity myself so I want to give back” or “I have witnessed family members or friends impacted by this cause and want to support others who may be going through the same thing”.
The answers from this exercise will help guide you to form the rest of your strategic giving plan and make your donations even more meaningful.
Step 2: What Should I Consider Giving To?
The next two steps will allow you to further drill down on specifics about where to give as decided by your charitable giving strategy. Now that you know your why, let’s identify what social causes mean the most to you.
Here’s an exercise to identify to do so:
Review your “why” brainstorming paper, and on a separate sheet of paper, list out the common causes highlighted throughout your experiences. The number of causes included doesn’t matter, so feel free to list as little or as many causes as you’d like.
Here are some common social causes to consider to get you started:
• Climate change
• Animal welfare
• Preserving the arts
• Disaster or war relief
• Long-term health or societal effects of COVID-19
• World hunger
• Specific health conditions (i.e. cancer, visual impairments)
• Women’s rights
• Period equity
Pro Tip: If you’re starting your charitable giving journey, it may be challenging to identify a handful of causes from your experiences. Reach out to your community, family, or trusted friends to learn more about their “why’s” or what they think could be a cause you’d be interested in supporting. Chances are, you can not only easily find a social cause to support in this way, but also further foster a culture of giving in your community.
Your list doesn’t need to be exhaustive, and of course, something more near and dear to your heart will ultimately take precedence, and that is fine. You may feel guilty that you are not supporting all of the causes you want to support, and that’s normal! Not everyone has the resources to support every cause. Your strategic giving plan will help you become more mindful in engaging with the causes most important to you.
Step 3: What Impact Can I Make?
Social causes have many layers to them, and the more specific we can get, the more connected we can feel when we give to that cause. Identifying the level of impact you want your charitable giving to have will help you narrow down your options.
Here’s an exercise to identify the impact you want to have when giving charitably:
On the same page you listed the causes important to you, go through each cause and simply list out what level of impact you’d want your time or money to have.
The levels of impact you can consider are local, national, or international impact.
When completing this exercise, you may find that you want to support a cause at all levels of impact. In this case, supporting a Cause Fund on Unite for Change can be a good starting point. These funds can support local, national, and international efforts with a single donation to your chosen cause.
You may also find that specific charities come to mind, especially when the cause is deeply personal or has impacted someone in your life. If you find yourself drawn to a specific charity, make note of it.
Step 4: What’s the Best Way to Give Charitably?
Now that we have our why, a list of causes important to us, and have identified the degree of impact we want to have, let’s dive deeper into the logistics of charitable giving.
There are several ways to engage in charitable giving, but the most common include the following:
• One-time charitable donations: provide flexibility when you donate, allowing you to contribute as much or as little as you want.
• Monthly charitable gifts: enable you to financially plan and support your favourite cause with more reliable funding. Monthly donations also help charities plan for the future and have a more powerful impact in the long term.
• Donating time or resource: Not everyone has the means to donate monetarily, and that’s perfectly ok! If this is the case for you, consider donating your time through volunteering or donating resources such as food to your local food bank. Other ways to give include donating blood or advocating for causes on social media.
When deciding on the best way to donate, consider your circumstances such as your financial situation and availability to donate time or resources.
Try this exercise to identify a giving method for your causes:
Gather the list of causes used in the last step, any plans you may have for your personal finances, and your calendar.
Go through each cause and identify the best way for you to give charitably that fits your resources and helps further the cause you want to support. You can do this on the same paper of you have space.
For some, it may be pretty easy to identify this and you may have multiple for each cause, or causes with none at all. List these all out to get a comprehensive look at all of the ways you can give.
As you’re completing this exercise you may find yourself more strongly drawn towards certain causes and accompanying ways of giving. Use that insight to start creating a shortlist of causes and ways to give to them. This will form the basis of your strategic giving plan.
You may not have the means to charitably give to every cause you identify, but that doesn’t mean you never can! Revisit this part of your strategic giving plan once a year to ensure you remain intentional with your giving.
Step 5: How Much Should I Donate?
If you decide to give money, determining how much to donate is a personal decision that should be based on your financial plan and your passion for the cause. While there is no hard and fast rule about how much you should donate, here are some strategies to consider:
•Benchmarking: Donating a percentage of your income is a common rule of thumb. You could start by donating 1% of your income and gradually increasing it if you feel comfortable doing so.
•Special Occasions: You could also consider donating some or all of your cash gifts or bonuses during holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions.
•Habit Stacking: If you want to change your spending habits, consider swapping your usual expenses with donations to your favourite causes. For example, if you buy a daily coffee, you could start making coffee at home and donate the money you save.
Remember, the most important thing is that you donate an amount you are comfortable with that aligns with your financial and personal goals. Contributing regularly, even a tiny amount, can create a significant impact in support of your favourite cause over time.
So, How Do I Use My Strategic Giving Plan?
Your shortlist of causes matched up with your ideal level of impact, and chosen way of giving should make up your giving plan. Each time you go to donate or are asked to donate to a cause, check your shortlist and brainstorming pages before you decide to donate.
You’re now equipped with the tools needed to confidently make decisions about your giving. Now go out there and make a difference!