If you spend less time thinking about how to give your money away than how to make it, you're like a lot of us (Bill and Melinda Gates aside).
But if you have ever wondered whether your charitable giving is having the impact it should, I have a couple ideas.
Two successful, local entrepreneurs have focused my attention on this topic recently. They hold their giving to the same standards they use for investing in their for-profit businesses. They certainly challenged my way of thinking.
One entrepreneur, Dan Swimm, introduced me to Give Well. Give Well identifies non-profits which can have the largest impact with the fewest dollars. Many of its favored charities focus on problems like preventing malaria and promoting de-worming -- two examples where a small amount of money can save a life.
Another entrepreneur, David Gardner, makes a different but equally interesting argument. He focuses on non-profits which help people gain employment or start businesses. The theory: teaching a woman to fish beats giving her a fish, but helping her start a fish market is better still, because it can lift up a village. One of his favorites is Opportunity International. They provide micro-loans in developing countries, primarily to women.
Giving is personal. You may be confident your money is well-spent. You may use a website like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to confirm your favorite non-profits spend resources wisely. You may use a community foundation. You may give your time and skills, not just money. Or you may have a strong bond with your church, synagogue, college alma mater, etc.
But if you haven't been as careful about your giving as you'd like, make a resolution to do that before the year-end giving season kicks off. Even small donations can have a real impact. You'll feel great, too.