Focus Your Grants

"The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it."

— William James

A Few Large Grants, or Several Small Ones

Making larger grants narrows your focus, allowing you to keep track of your giving more easily. Larger gifts also can make a significant difference to an organization's work or to a field and give you a stronger sense of contributing to advances.

Smaller gifts can give expression to a wider range of your interests and broaden the impact of your generosity. Also, many organizations depend on the combination of small gifts as their lifeblood, even though the impact of a single smaller gift may be less visible. One kind of giving provides more depth; the other, more breadth. Which will give you greater satisfaction?

Where To Give

Local giving helps you track your philanthropy more closely - and personally - and allows you to offer gifts of time and involvement as well as resources. Giving over a wider geographical area gives you more outlets for your philanthropy and it allows you to accommodate the varying interests of different family members.

Communities, Areas of Interest, Specific Organizations, or Individuals

Some donors are more interested in public policy issues, leading them to support community programs or research; others want to see the effects of their generosity on individual lives and invest in scholarships, mentoring, or job training programs. The work you did in the section on passion will help guide you in these choices. The type of organization you choose will reflect your expectations - what you would most like to have happen as a result of your gifts.

Newer, Emerging Charities vs. Older, Established Ones

Younger organizations represent more risk, but also the potential for fresh approaches. Your gift can make a big difference for a young organization and may lead the way for other donors hesitant to support an organization without an established track record. If you wish to establish a personal relationship with an organization, it may be easier with a newer one.

Older, established organizations offer a track record you can review. Their use of past gifts and the impact of these gifts on others can tell you whether they are likely to use your gift effectively. On the other hand, they may be weighted down by expensive bureaucracy and/or labouring with a stale mission.

Different Aspects of Charitable Work

These areas typically include general administration, direct service, special programs, public education, research, or advocacy. In asking yourself what areas you want to support, look beyond programs to discover the organization's real needs.

Many donors are most attracted to supporting direct services and special programs, where the impact on individual lives is most visible. But, like businesses, non-profit organizations also must invest in their infrastructure to enhance their capacity to provide services more effectively and efficiently.

Grants to research can also strengthen an organization, increase public awareness of their work, and expand their influence and donor base. In fact, these may be the best areas for your support if you want to advance a whole field.

What Is Most Important to An Organization's Work?

Again, talk with organization representatives about what they need most. Support for special programs can encourage innovation within the organization's staff and possibly provide an extension of services for more people.

Capital support will help an organization maintain its current facilities or build new ones. You might think of this as sustaining the mission. Also, capital gifts often offer greater public recognition for the donor and tangible evidence of how your gift is being used.

Endowment gifts are critical because they provide an organization with resources for its future. For example, a donor might give $5,000 annually for twenty years and another might give the same total amount in an endowment that provides $5,000 annually in perpetuity.

An aspect to consider is that general endowments are often less visible to the public. However, specific endowments, such as a named chair at an educational institution or scholarships in your name, can be very visible.

Volunteering your time gives you an opportunity to see the organization firsthand and to become involved on the ground level. It is also a good way to research the needs and effectiveness of an organization.